A long dead 19th century author who wrote about the rather limited lives of women, in a time when success was defined by who you married, might seem a strange crush for the modern millennial, yet on Instagram the hashtag ‘#janeausten’ brings up over half a million hits and counting.
Part of this is surely down to her abilities as a writer – powerful observations, smart and witty dialogue, and the kind of independent and intelligent female leads that Hollywood still hasn’t quite caught up with. However, that only explains her general appeal, whereas on my own book website, she continuously tops the bestseller lists amongst 18-30 year olds in particular.
So what is it about her that appeals so much to young women today?
She was a Woman Ahead of her Time
“I was so intrigued and inspired by Jane’s life.” Sarah, 23
From many of the comments we receive it seems the attraction might well be Jane herself. As an author who generated her own income she was considered unconventional, to say the least, and simply outrageous to many. As was the fact she never married; in fact, Jane turned down a marriage proposal – an experience she drew on when writing Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzie Bennett turns down two of her own, even if she does end up marrying in the end.
Jane would have been a Social Media Influencer Today
“I find Jane Austen so inspiring as a young writer” Vikki, 26
By becoming a writer, Jane gave herself a voice and the ability to express herself to women of her age and class – something that was especially powerful at a time when there were no female politicians, and few women in public life whatsoever, and conventional wisdom suggested that the only way to have any real power was to share a pillow with a successful man.
She was also a great letter writer, keen to share news, gossip and ideas on a daily basis, although tragically few survive as her sister burnt most of them at Jane’s request. Something else that might chime with a generation facing being worse off than their parent’s one, is that Jane’s life was far from secure. She struggled with money all her life, and often had to rely on her parents. Sound familiar?
click for the perfect gift idea! She Invented the Reality TV Genre “She can make everyday life and situations sound so interesting. Also, her humour is perfect!” Emma, 30
Prior to Jane Austen, most published novels were either vast historical epics or moody, gothic affairs, which, had they been made into films, would surely have needed a cast of thousands and a special effects budget running into the millions. Jane’s novels, meanwhile, placed the reader as a fly on the wall in the fashionable drawing room of the day, meaning that Sense and Sensibility and Made in Chelsea actually have a surprising amount in common.
click for our editor's picks! A Drawing Room or a Coffee Shop – What’s the Difference? “I just love her writing, it’s so eloquent.” Zara, 19
Considering that previous generations had a dependence on a well-oiled night in a night club for dating opportunities, it’s hardly surprising that millennials drink less, with nearly a quarter now abstaining completely. As such, they are far more likely to choose a digitally arranged and predominately sober meeting in a coffee shop - which if you think about it, is not that different from a pen-and-paper arranged meeting in a Regency drawing room. Plus, Jane’s characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s unstoppable Elizabeth Bennet, are independent, fun, witty, clever and usually two steps ahead of any man in the book, which makes for a pretty good dating model for us all.
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