I dislike romance novels. Nope. I'd choose C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton over Nora Roberts any day. I can't understand who would want to fill their heads with unrealistic expectations of men and dream about the "perfect" romance story which many romance novels present. I mean, come on! Give me some reality!
But Jane Austen is a different story.
For some reason, I, the romance-novel-hater, am captivated by Jane Austen's works. Oh yeah, I had seen the movies before, but once I picked up her books, I couldn't stop reading. First of all, Austen is a literary genius, in my opinion. But not only is her writing enthralling, but her characters are captivating and her story-lines are pure brilliance. There's just something about the class and formality of the early 1800's that enraptures me.
So, I began thinking, Why is it that we love Jane Austen so much? (I'm assuming that some of you like her work as well). What is it about her work that has captured hearts for hundreds of years? Why do I love her novels when I shun all other romance books? I have a few theories. =) Here is why I think I love Jane Austen:
1. Her books are literary works of art. I already referred to this, but it's worth pointing out again, that Austen is an excellent writer. Her sentences alone are romantic! The descriptions, the character development, the emotions she portrays—pure brilliance. Certainly, her books are a joy to read.
2. Men are portrayed as men. In a society where feminism prevails and where male leadership has declined (and is often even discouraged), Austen's works are a breath of fresh air. In her works, men know how to be men—even when their deeds go unrecognized, even when it's awkward, even in disappointment, even in a room full of women. Her male characters possess a kind of confident civility that goes far beyond flattering words and good looks in the area of romance. Deep down inside, I think all of us dream of a romance built on character and principles: where the men pursue the women, where honor is upheld, and where sacrifice is heroic. Yes, "heroic" accurately describes the men we all love in Austen's novels.
3. Redemption is beautiful. No one wants to read a romance that's "happily ever after" right from the beginning. Bor-ing. We love Jane Austen (and all other good stories, for that matter), because there's a conflict that has to be resolved. The truth is, romance stories are sweeter when there's a disagreement or a misunderstanding or a separation, because it makes the resolution at the end all the more beautiful. (I'm also thinking about the BBC movie North and South. You gotta watch it.)
As I was thinking about the beauty of redemption in Austen's novels, it occurred to me that this is one of the reasons why the gospel is so beautiful! If you think about it, we were once enemies separated from God; but because of His love for us, God sacrificed Himself for us so that we could be brought into fellowship with Him and be made into the Bride of Christ. Totally Pride and Prejudice-y!
It's just a thought, but I think this is one of the reasons God allows sin in the world. I mean, God knew Adam and Eve would sin, and He could have made the world so that there was no sin. But He didn't. In His sovereignty (that I don't claim to understand), God allowed sin. Yes, He hates it. Yes, it goes against His character. But God's ultimate goal is to magnify Himself and bring Himself glory, and through the reconciliation of the sinner to God, God looks great. The gospel of Christ is so beautiful because of redemption.
Bottom line: I love Jane Austen. But God wrote a more beautiful romance than any human author ever could. Praise God!