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Why Jane Austen? A simple, yet complex answer…

By Gabrielle Lesage

Around my friends I am known as the Austen Fanatic. Among my academic peers I am the Austen Enthusiast. I wear these titles with pride because Jane Austen has had a tremendous impact on my life. As often as we hear these words from devoted readers of Austen, I cannot help but repeat them once more: Jane Austen has had a huge impact on my life.

Many people ask me why that is. How can one author, whose works have been published for more than 200 years, still resonate with me, a modern woman in a world filled with the hustle and bustle of a constantly evolving society? Many ask why I prefer to reread Pride and Prejudice instead of picking up a new book, or why I find myself admiring Austen’s heroes when there are countless dashing celebrities out to make the crowds go wild? I find myself always answering the same four words:

Because it is Jane.

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Because Jane Austen is not just an author. Somehow she is more than a writer who has left us with her novels. Rather, she is a friend and confidant; someone who makes me question human behaviour. There is a timelessness to her human observations, and I cannot help but be amazed that we see these characters in our daily lives, even after centuries: we all know a Lady Catherine, someone who feels entitled and likes to get her way, and I am sure we all know a Fanny Price, a girl who is shy but once you get to know her becomes your most cherished friend.

Her works transmit to us even today, and I cannot help but feel that I have a personal connection with her, and I am sure many people feel that way. Her works are character driven and she does not attempt to sugar-coat life: sometimes bad things happen to good people, while good things happen to bad people. Austen does not pretend we live in a perfect world; on the contrary, some of our favourite Austen characters have flaws.

Perhaps one reason I feel so close to Austen is that I find a little of myself in each of her heroines: like Elinor, I sometimes put others emotions before my own; like Marianne, I am a passionate soul; like Lizzy, I can be quite the stubborn person; like Fanny I sometimes have difficulty defending myself; like Emma I can get carried away; like Catherine, I have an extremely active imagination, and like Anne I am a fighter.

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With all this in mind, I would like to propose a project. I know exactly the ways in which Jane Austen has affected my life. I am very interested in knowing how Jane has had an impact on everyone else. I propose to start a collaborative blog. I have created a blog titled “Dear Jane Project”:https://dearjaneproject.wordpress.com.  Someone who is interested in participating in this project can submit a letter to Jane explaining how her works and her life have affected them through an email: dearjaneproject@gmail.com. Submitted texts will be uploaded to the blog. Hopefully, this project will allow fans from around the world to share their stories, and create a community with people around the world.

I believe this project can become something great. Each one of us has a story, and my goal is for us all to be able to share them. I think it is a great way to commemorate the life of Jane Austen as we approach the 200th anniversary of her death.

What would you write to Jane?

Gabrielle Lesage is an Honours English Literature and Psychology student at Bishop’s University. She has been passionate about Jane Austen since high school. She will be writing her honours thesis on Austen in the upcoming school year. She loves reading, writing, and getting to know people’s stories.

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