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Letter To An English Major: Austen’s Legacy Of Life Lessons

4028 words - 17 pages

Dearest English major fellow,
“For Austen, life, liker her novel, is a continual process of reading and rereading.” (23).
There are billions of ideas out there: millions are published, few are memorable. Jane Austen’s novels are, without doubt, amongst the few that hold precious kernels of truths and observations concerning human nature, reading oneself, and reading others. Why is that so important? Well, as Austen shows us through numerous examples and counterexamples, self examination, reflection, and reading others are key towards happiness, fulfillment, and healthy relationships. Think about it. From the moment we walk out the door and enter the world, we are faced with the ubiquitous task of reading people and situations. We always wonder what a person really meant, if they like us or not, what are their true intentions, whether someone is trustworthy, what their character actually holds, and more. Jane Austen offers us, in a didactical and creative manner, the tools and lessons towards a better life. It does not matter whether one lives in Australia or China, if they are rich or poor, young or old, man or woman: Austen’s lessons can help change anyone’s life for the better. For example, I got out of many terrible romantic relationships and never understood how, at first, I would feel as if though they were the one, when in reality, after a few months, my romantic partners would turn out to be the worst match for me. Austen made me realize that this was the side effect of not knowing my happiness, not being aware of my needs, desires, and core. I have always been fascinated with trying to read other people and situations, as I want to be a future attorney/prosecutor. However, I never really went around it the right way because I lacked the first and foremost step that Austen emphasizes in all her novels: reflection and self examination. Let me take you on a life changing journey where Austen’s novels convey how her writings are much more than marriage plots and a portrayal of society and status in her times: they are legacies of enduring life lessons.
You are now aboard on the Austinian train. First stop: Northanger Abbey. Meet Catherine Moreland, the heroine of the novel, who begins with a wishy-washy character and by the end of her journey, becomes a “a better reader of texts, landscapes, people, and situations.” (21). What do I mean by wishy-washy? Well, she starts out with a weak, naïve character. Whatever any character tells her, such as Isabella, Mr. Thorpe, or Mr. Tilney, influences her on the spot and change her mind and beliefs constantly. For example, Catherine’s most precious hobby is reading novels. When she inquires what Thorpe thinks about them, he flippantly tells her, “I never read novels; I have something else to do” (71). “[H]umbled and ashamed, [she] was going to apologize for her question,” instead of reacting defensively and strongly on her favorable opinion on novels and great contribution to society (71). She does...

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