Friday, August 7, 2009

re-reading Jane Austen

I downloaded Jane Austen's Mansfield Park from the Gutenberg site a week or so ago and read it.

Boy, that Fanny Price is a wet noodle, isn't she?

I tried to read Richardson's Pamela a few months ago. That's from a few decades earlier.

And boy, that Pamela is a wet noodle, isn't she?

OK, so they both resist the heartless villain's attempts to win her over. Poor Pamela faints a lot and tries to send letters to people who might be able to help her - the whiny, gorgeous servant girl who is going to be ravished be her eeeevil master. I got to the part where she's sitting around, held prisoner on his lesser property, trying to figure out how to escape. I finally had to give up. So either she escaped or she discovered he wasn't so eeevil. Either way, I didn't actually care so much.

I know, it was a big deal back then to show how the depraved lords could do what they wanted with their servants, but she was so very much a perfect lady who had been raised by a ditchdigger and was a paragon of every virtue. See, if she'd been more common, less educated, less faint-y, I would have appreciated the story a lot more. It was radical that a servant was lauded for resisting her master's eeeevil advances and it was social commentary rather than so much a love story, but Yikes.

And Fanny is pale and shy and lets everyone tromp all over her roughshod, but she manages to resist the seducing villain who eventually runs off with her pretty cousin who was married to a bore. And then she just sighs and weeps while her lunkhead male cousin moans about how the seducing villain's sister has a bad character and he can't possible marry her now, which if he hadn't been so focused on her boobs (presumably: Austen doesn't say boobs), he would have stopped apologizing for long ago. But of course, Fanny's perfect for him, because he's the only one in the family who paid any attention to her and practically raised her himself and taught her how to think. And SQUICK, she's in love with her father figure, who's her first cousin.

Right. So fainting, pliable heroines are fine in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I'm not a huge fan of modern historical novels that show a lady doing everything that would have had her kicked out of society, but I am even less fond of the doormat.

The 2nd novel I finished, the one I haven't started editing yet, had a shy, quiet girl who has been badly treated by her whole family and she has very little self-esteem and she is afraid of a lot of things, but I hope that the reader sees the core of steel, the brains and that all she needs is some encouragement and she can be fabulous. I hope. I'll be trying to balance her head bowed, agreeing with everything, nearly beaten self with what's going on in her head and heart.

Because Pamela and Fanny don't have a whole lot going on in their heads, as far as I can tell.

Next up: Northanger Abbey. I don't remember much about it, to be honest.

Now, if I could only get a handle on what I need to do with the 1st story to make it work, I would get to work on that one.

Because there's a 3rd one building in my head. I wrote a first chapter and have some clear ideas of what to do with it. I've just ordered a book for research purposes.

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