Unknown artist- Woman Writing a Letter
In my personal favorite, Sense and Sensibility, the central concept is the response to unpleasant circumstance. Elinor exemplifies II Corinthians 10:5b, " ... and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ", when she responds by keeping her emotions in check, her thoughts captive, and trusting in God when her circumstance seem to forecast complete unhappiness. In doing this Elinor also spares her mother and sisters a lot of unnecessary anxiety on her behalf.
While at first Marianne is the antithesis of her sister (Elinor struggles to overcome, Marianne wallows), the sanctification process is evident in her life. By the end of the story she not only sees the necessity of keeping her emotions in check but also succeeds at it. Marianne comes to have a deeper appreciation and love for Elinor after watching her struggle to do what she knows is right.
In Mansfield Park, there is the idea of perseverance through trial. Whether the trial is being pursed by a rake who no one else sees as a rake because he has money, being reminded over and over again of the kindness of your uncle in taking you in, or watching the man you love throw his affections away on a worthless woman, Fanny is loyal to principles no matter what and patient to a fault. Even when her cousin, who she happens to be in love with, wants her to do something that goes against her conscience, she is adamant in her refusals. Fanny is also amazing about giving people the benefit of the doubt even when they really don't deserve it.
Not all of Jane Austen's stories are positive examples. In Northanger Abby, she uses a young and naive Catherine Morland to expound on the foolishness of reading rubbish. While Austen specifically points out how the reading of some romantic novels has the potential to fill young minds such as Catherine's with ridiculous notions, like the idea that her future father-in-law murdered his wife, the principle is still there. Catherine read absent mindedly. She didn't exercise discernment. She simply took it all in and her character was corrupted. In the end she had to endure a very embarrassing episode to teach her this lesson.
This doesn't mean that Marx, Darwin, or Hitler should never be read. It means that we shouldn't be saturated in it . Reading these authors is beneficial in order to understand the wrong and be able to combat it, but we should be engaged in whatever we read-discerning good and evil.
Jane Austen is one of the best female writers in the English language. She had amazing insight into human strengths and weaknesses. To me her stories present a challenge to become better or shine a gentle light on my weakness so that it is easy to want to change. Her characters walk beside the reader with an exalting example of how to glorify God through being patient, loyal, persevering through trials, having a proper response to unpleasant circumstances, the evils of reading trash, treating people kindly no matter what, the list goes on and on. It all depends on you and where you are at in your walk.
So, do you like Jane Austen? Why or why not? If you do, which one of her stories are your favorite and why?