Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

March 25, 2006

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Filed under: Books,Criticism,Jane Austen Comparisons,Jane Eyre,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 10:38 am

Dear Jane… Austen

I came across this little Brontë reference this morning. It caught my attention, not because it is yet another comparison between the Brontes and Jane Austen, but because it seems like a peculiar way to make the distinction between the two.

Patrice Hannon, English literature professor, is 'jumpstarting' her career as a novelist by writing a self-help manual on love written with the voice of Jane Austen. The book is called 'Dear Jane Austen: A Heroine's Guide to Life and Love.' The idea for the book came from her students who were commenting on how realistically Austen depicts relationships. This is where the Bronte reference comes in:

As opposed to unrealistic romantic notions often found in novels like “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre,” Austen championed cynicism and lifelike dialogue, according to Hannon.

I know that Charlotte's portrayal of Mr Rochester was attacked when the book was published as being unrealistic, but as a whole it both books seem remarkably lifelike in their dialogue- for the period, of course. Both books also delve in the depths of the human psyche, rather than those parts which are most readily accessable. What Charlotte was more blunt in saying, it is in a sense superficial in comparison. I don't often trust Austen's good natured characters (not implying that all of them are good natured). I suspect what I don't know about them might show they are not what they seem to be. I can conceed some ground on the dialogue but cynicism seems a strange way of distinguishing the two. I have not read much of Jane Austen, however, so I may be unwittingly saying something foolish here. In conclusion, I believe neither Charlotte, Emily, not Jane are less realistic than the other. If this is heresy, I cannot help it.

Austenite readers of Brontëana will no doubt find this a little unsettling:

“When I was merely twenty, I fell in love with a young Irishman. We knew very little of one another — far too little, indeed, to have fallen so deeply in love,” Hannon writes in Austen’s voice. Convinced that Austen’s life was not as plain as legend might have it, Hannon hopes readers will pick up on the subtle drama that unfolds behind the love advice.

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