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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Bennett’

During Jane Austen Season on Masterpiece Theater this winter I decided to skip hassling my parents to record on the week when the biopic Miss Austen Regrets was on.  If it was like any other biography, it would be very dull.  If it was like the other movies, it would be very silly.  If it was like Becoming Jane, it would be annoying.  Unfortunately, as soon as my chances of viewing it were past, all the Austen fan sites came alive with gentle praise for the movie, and I regretted missing it. 
 
Finally the copy of Sense and Sensibility came from the library, its featured chapter being the hour and a half long Miss Austen Regrets, a wonderful film (immodest women, if that bothers you, which it does me – no brothers allowed) about Jane Austen’s views on love and marriage, mostly centering on her advice to Fanny, her niece.  It made me think.  I watched it on my anniversary, actually, and at first I thought it was rather the wrong choice for that, but then it was such a message of trusting God to do with your life what He wills, even if it isn’t marriage – but retaining a high value of marriage that I am reconciled to the decision. 
 
Not being a scholar of Jane Austen’s life, I am without criticism of the movie’s portrayal of her timeline, words, and actions.  I never thought of her as being so flirtatious, but that is because I prefer, like Elizabeth Bennett, to imagine that the people I admire share my values and convictions and that their faults, which all people must be admitted to have, are never those which expose a good understanding to ridicule.  I enjoyed the movie very much, especially the parts where Jane was writing Persuasion.  The makers of this movie, at least, understood that story. 
 
Cassandra’s relationship with her beloved witty sister the author is a fascination to me, and I am always willing to know more of it.  One thing brought up by the movie, however, was her brothers.  Jane Austen (and Cassandra, of course) had six brothers who played important roles in their lives.  Yet the only book Jane wrote where there was any substantial brother role was Mansfield Park, and though his character moves the story when it appears, and though he is dear and inspiring to his sister Fanny, he is really not all that central to the plot.  So I wondered why Jane Austen so rarely wrote about what she knew so well: the relationship of brothers and sisters. 
 
Do you ever wonder if Jane wrote Pride and Prejudice about herself and Cassandra – and her namesake was really the better representation?  Oh, I suppose outspoken and satirical Jane could never be the quiet and tender Miss Bennett.  Perhaps she really would have preferred marriage to Mr. Bingley for herself, though.  I agree with Miss Austen Regrets, that Mr. Darcy would not have done for Jane Austen (just as I imagine he would not have done for me, though like all good fans, I adore him). 
 
So now I’m back to reading the Annotated Pride and Prejudice, reveling actually in the comparative necessary openness of the written story as opposed to the famed 1995 Pride and Prejudice that got to so subtly show the change in the hero and heroine.  It is so relaxing to ponder what one reads, if it is a good piece of literature.  And who that has read Pride and Prejudice could argue that point? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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On the problem of teaching children right from wrong – of teaching them wisdom – especially in the abstract circumstances:
 
I sit in my office listening to a mother interact with her young daughter over a Highlights magazine.  Seeing a picture of a child riding a vacuum, the girl recognizes, “That is no, no, no, no, no.”  The mother supports her child, “Yes, that’s silly.” 
 
So we see that the girl knows the word “no,” and that it indicates something which should not be done. 
 
The mother takes a psychological approach today, creating the association of silliness with things which might be dangerous or wrong. 
 
My problem with this is that youth – and at times even adults – are supposed to be silly.  They can make faces and jokes, stand on their heads, and draw pictures of fish in trees.  A court jester is silly for entertainment.  He is humble, too. 
 
In the old days a jester was also called a fool.  But here we meet the same difficulty.  Foolishness is rejection of God, emptiness, the opposite of wisdom and faith.  Fools we should never be if we can help it. 
 
Riding on a vacuum cleaner is more accurately described as foolish.  The consequences are not foreseen, authority and respect for property overlooked, and no justification given for the activity.  Is that what the mother wanted to teach her daughter? 
 
The danger in teaching children that wrong things are silly is that there are many things silly that are not wrong.  If you say it is silly to eat a peanut butter sandwich only from the left-hand side, or to sing a song of sixpence, then either the child will be terrified, considering all things unlike his parents to be wrong – or he will learn that wrong things are merely silly, and one day he will try them anyway, just to be funny or just to be curious.  “Silly” takes the seriousness out of disobedience. 
 
What do I recommend, then?  Usually when I have parenting ideas, they seem quite logical, natural, and easy to implement.  In this case I cannot think of an easy way to overcome this tendency.  Adults – especially worn out parents who have had little but two-year-old style conversation – are not creative or attentive enough generally to accurately describe why they disapprove of a certain course of action.  Thus they resort to the “silly” tactic, or “because I said so.” 
 
Now “because I said so” is a valid thing to teach.  Authority must be obeyed even when we do not understand the reason.  Unto parents is committed a more complex responsibility of bringing up a child to be able to make his own decisions when there is not authority to instruct.  So most of the time a parent should accompany an instruction with a reason, sharing their rationale. 
 
“Don’t take your pennies out of your pocket.  That isn’t careful.  If you lose them that would be irresponsible.” 
 
“Thank you for taking your own plate to the sink.  That was very responsible of you.” 
 
“Good job carrying the cup of water to Daddy.  You were careful it didn’t spill.” 
 
“You shouldn’t make fun of your brother or call him names.  That is unkind.” 
 
“Jesus said to be kind to one another.  Mommy is kind to you when she helps you tie your shoes.” 
 
“That was your sister’s toy.  Don’t steal it from her.  That is selfish.  Love your sister and share with her.” 
 
“Telling mom no is wrong.  God gave you a mom to take care of you, and He made her the boss.” 
 
Jane Austen’s grown-up characters responded well to the more descriptive rebukes.  Some were accompanied by explanations, and others were one-liners.  Mr. Knightley does not tell Emma “That was silly,” but the much more potent, “Badly done!”  Jane checks Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice by saying, “Lizzie, that was unkind!” 
 
How much better would we all respond if, rather than a culture that hints and manipulates (psychological influence, peer pressure, teasing, silent treatment, “that’s silly”), we had a culture where good friends and family could tell each other they were wrong?  And doesn’t the descriptive version reinforce values?  If I scolded to a little boy that he was being “ungentlemanly,” I am implying that there is such a thing as a gentleman and that it is a high calling.  On playgrounds children still value courage, by taunting each other with “coward” (or its loosely associated, “chicken”).  Jane valued kindness and knew that, in principle, her sister did, too.  Mr. Knightley appealed to Emma’s goodness. 
 
I might say, “That was dishonest,” or “That was imprudent,” “that was unwise,” unsound, inconsiderate, selfish, malicious, dangerous, destructive, unhealthy…
 
Any other suggestions, experiences being descriptively corrected, examples, arguments, etc?  Comment!
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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