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ABIGAIL HENKE
 

TO BE "INCANDESCENTLY HAPPY"

For centuries, young women have pondered what it would be like to live in nineteenth century England. They imagine extravagant balls, horse-drawn carriages, and romantic gentlemen. What they "most ardently" desire is to live like Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennet -- within the captivating pages of a regency era novel (Austen). Since the publishing of Sense and Sensibility in 1811, the minds of young women have been entranced and entertained with ageless love stories starring female protagonists, dreamy gentlemen, and mockery of social customs, prompting young ladies everywhere to wonder, "What if I lived in a Jane Austen novel?"

In today's male driven world, it would be refreshing to step through the pages of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or Persuasion and assume a perspective that focuses on strong female characters. Living in this world would reduce most insipid, vapid people to the status of minor characters such as Lydia Bennet, Isabella Thorpe, or Augusta Elton. When main characters are emotionally intelligent, "accomplished young women", many modern problems such as immodesty, ignorance, and infidelity simply disappear (Austen). The unique beauty of an Austenian society is that it focuses on the minute details of a lady's everyday life and how she resolves deep emotional dilemmas.

Perhaps the most common reason for wanting to live in a Jane Austen novel is to find and marry one's soulmate. A dilemma that ladies encounter in our modern times is that "current men lack respect for their female counterparts... They treat us as prostitutes" (Emily Raines). Modern "gentlemen are an endangered species, and if we aren't careful, they'll go the way of mix-tapes and tandem bicycles" (Rorick). As this becomes more and more prevalent, it is harder and harder to find acceptable husbands. In an Austenian society, true, chivalrous gentlemen at heart who sweep ladies off their feet and carry them off into the sunset are found for every protagonist. Every lady is properly courted and carefully weighs her options before accepting any kind of proposal. The forethought that goes into their acceptance, or, in some cases, denial (ahem, Mr. Collins), should be a model for modern women who often rush into a marriage that quickly ends in divorce.

A major element in any of Austen's novels is the fun that she pokes at society and social rituals. There are many modest, learned, young women who even today are actively implementing Austenian ideas by heckling what our world has come to, as Austen once did. One of the most commonly satirized rituals common to both regency and modern times are dances. According to Austen, "It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue to body or mind". Sadly, it seems that high school students and administration do not agree, evident by the fact that several of these vulgar gatherings occur each year for no reason other than "it is tradition". The eager participants, lacking all self-respect and modesty, blindly fling their bodies into a pile in the middle of the "dance floor" and participate in what can only be described as a massive clothed orgy. This practice, known as grinding, deserves to be made the laughingstock of all high school traditions, as it is a disgrace to the name of dancing. In the early nineteenth century, men and women participating in such acts would be shunned from society or at least admitted to a mental institution for serious evaluation. Living in a Jane Austen novel would shield young ladies of pure mind and heart from the scarring effects that witnessing these horrifying acts leaves on them.

In conclusion, living in a Jane Austen novel would bring a focus to female protagonists, prompt women worldwide to find respectable gentlemen to spend their lives with, ridicule modern rituals, and be much better than living in today's vulgar, disappointing society.

Works Cited:
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004. Print.
Raines, Emily. Personal interview. 28 Oct. 2014
Rorick, Kate. "25 Douchebags and a Gentleman." The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Youtube. 7 June 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.
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