What is it about Jane Austen's works that has so entranced generations of readers? Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, and yet as late as 2005 it was being made into a movie! Why is the story so enduring? The characters so identifiable? Maybe it was because Austen was writing about her world, the life she was used to and the people she met.
It is tempting to read Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility with the same attitude we have in reading a work of historical fiction: the distinction that that was yesterday, and this is today, and that somehow the author knew that. Jane Austen, however, was actually living in a world of carriages, bonnets, and strict standards of propriety. She "wrote what she knew", which means that this accurate snapshot of 19th century England is very like an accurate snapshot of 21st century America, at least as far as the characters are concerned.
Any girl who has had romantic flights of fancy, dreams of a rich and handsome prince charming, and a love of music and poetry can immediately identify with Marianne Dashwood (S&S). And if you are an imminently practical girl with a sister like the former you might see yourself in Elinor. Maybe you have "a lively, playful disposition, which delight(s) in any thing ridiculous", and you imagine that Elizabeth Bennet is your twin. Whoever you identify with, it's almost certain that there's someone in an Austen book that reminds you of someone you know.
Another reason I personally love Austen's works, is that every time I read one of the books or watch one of the movies I am left with a certain wish, a wish to be able to walk around the house in empire-waist dresses and put my hair up in lovely, curling styles. I want to learn lovely pieces on the piano and speak with gentility, move with grace. It seems that life could be so much more elegant and romantic, if one could only recreate the atmosphere of the early 1800s. I would hate to just sit around and do nothing but read, dance, and flirt with rich men all day (doesn't sound too bad, though), but it's really the fact that these people are real ladies, with the exclusion of such modern characters as Lydia and Kitty, of course.
I know that I can't go back in time, but I am always being inspired to be a little more...Austen-ish... in my everyday life. It would be interesting to do something like a weeklong challenge: "how Austen-like can you be?".
How about you girls? Why do you like or (God forbid!) not like Jane Austen's novels, characters or plotlines? Why do you think that they are so enduring?