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Being A Woman: The timelessness of Jane Austen
OPINION 10/06/2039 8:41 PM ET
Being A Woman: The timelessness of Jane Austen

Linda O'Mallie
Lover of books and coffee crazy woman

Image is the author's own, and is hereby released to the public domain under CC0 1.0 license | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 MORPH 1 091309 FEMALE FACE by Bill Strain | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Austen is a must-read for any woman.
I read Jane Austen in high school. Pride and Prejudice. It was my introduction to a new world. A world of ladies and gentlemen, genteel and refined. A different age of the same world.

I was outraged by Mr. Darcy's pride, and dismayed at the silent retreat of Elizabeth Bennett's heart. Amused by Mr. Collins and aggravated by Mr. Bingley willingly listening to Mr. Darcy's prejudiced advice.

Why do we continue to read Austen today? Is it the range of emotions which befuddle us as we turn page after page? Is it the complexity of the characters?

I read Austen because I like to look at a reflection of a long-lost world. A world in which women were denied their inheritance by virtue (vice) of being women.

A world in which a woman was deemed to be a failure if she did not marry by a certain age. Which is to say, if she was not rescued by a man, by a certain age.

A world in which a woman's chances rose if she married a man with enough money to support her.

A world in which a woman possessed little liberty and free will of her own, and was subject to scandal based on the most innocuous of actions.

I read Austen because it informs me that our struggle began a long time ago. That our struggle must continue unceasingly. We have progressed, it is true, from the chattels we were once seen as, through emancipation and through equality initiatives in the decades after World War II, but there is more to be done.

When a woman births a child and only has seven days to choose an abortion - I know we are still living in the world of Jane Austen.

When Shonda McRae has to stand in court a second time to be declared innocent - I know we are still living in the world of Jane Austen.

When a woman respeciating is wrong, I know we are still living in the world of Jane Austen.

We must read Jane Austen, because we are still living in her world. It may have a different context. You may be able to fly from New York to London in three hours, but it's the same world.

The themes of Austen's pain bleed out of every chapter of her beautiful prose. They call for a world where a woman is not property, is not a thing to be had by a man, but a beautiful and unique creature to unfold herself in splendour.

A woman's place is not the cage society places around her, it is in her own mind, realizing that she is amazing, powerful and strong. That she is not to be intimidated by men or relegated to the sidelines because she is not this or that.

I do not crochet and I do not take "turns" about the room for the eyes of men.

When Elizabeth Bennet finally tells Mr. Darcy what she thinks of him I weep.

I continue to weep because we must read Austen, everyday. Because she is still relevant.
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