On this day 235 years ago, Jane Austen was born. Her life was short, enduring only forty-one years, and rather sheltered. She travelled little and spent most of her time with her family and a close circle of friends, and she only received one marriage proposal, which she turned down. By today’s standards, Jane Austen was very sheltered indeed and not at all a person one would expect to make an impact on the literary world.
Still, Ms. Austen did something few people ever do: she created books that continue to touch people’s hearts centuries later. Her novels may not be the stuff of big blockbuster special effects films or contain earth-changing commentary, but they deal with more intimate problems, smaller scale woes that all people in all generations face. How do we find love? How do we deal with money issues? Did we misjudge someone? Where is our place in society?
Ms. Austen reminds us that sometimes a larger impact can be made by focusing on what may seem to be the mundane details of life. In these small details, we spend most of our energy. These small details make us who we are and define how we relate to the world around us.
I am in no small way indebted to Jane Austen. Without Pride and Prejudice, I would not have written Charlotte Collins, and I would not be on the journey I am taking today. She has taught me that books do not need to be tragedies to be considered literature, and she has showed me that good novels can be written by people of any age and place in society.
So thank you, Ms. Austen, for reminding us what is truly important and for giving us so many wonderful novels.