Jane Austen. Most guys, upon hearing this name, usually have two reactions. They roll their eyes and mutter something about chick lit or they stare back at you blankly and say, “Jane Who?”. I didn’t have any experience with Austen until the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie was released. And then, later, I met my future wife who was as in love with Austen as Darcy was with Elizabeth. So needless to say, I started reading Austen’s oeuvre to see what all the fuss was about.
Frankly, I like most of her works. Pride & Prejudice is my favorite but Emma has become my second. As I was reading Emma, I began to wonder what it was that drew me into Austen’s longest, and what some call her best, work. Some say that because it’s a female protagonist, who’s foibles include matchmaking and misreading romantic intentions, guys can’t relate. I disagree.
I believe that guys can still read a novel with a female protagonist, who deals with “female issues”. We men may not be able to relate, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t sympathize. Men know what it’s like to feel like you have your life planned out only to realize it’s falling apart. We know what it’s like to think you won’t be loved only to find the love of your life was in front of you all along. And this is how Austen opens the door for male readers to relate to Emma.
Austen brilliantly crafts Emma as a character whose struggles, trials, and tribulations are universal. She’s a round, dynamic character, who is relatable or, at least, comparable to women you have known. Plus, Austen includes such an array of characters that it’s easy to relate to the male characters in the cast of Emma. They play as much of an integral role in the plot as the protagonist. And what I appreciate is that neither the women or the men are stereotypical. Unless they are the villains. (I’m talking to you Mr. and Mrs. Elton!).
Ultimately, I think Austen is a true feminist in that she presents a story that is equal opportunity for men and women to enjoy, her characters are deep and complex, and the vast array of protagonists and supporting characters allows for a rich view of the society in which she wrote and connections to the society in which we live.
So guys, if you’ve ever wondered about Austen or are looking to enter the conversation, I highly recommend Emma. You won’t be disappointed. And hey, it just might get you noticed by the ladies.