Thursday, August 14, 2008

Becoming Reasonable in Romance: A Lesson from 'Becoming Jane'

People fall in love, and with their love, they make mistakes. Some people realize that falling in love is not necessarily a right to marry, not when it will cost the welfare of the people depending on them. That's the lesson I took from the glamorous rendition of Jane Austen's youthful romance in the film Becoming Jane. It is a message that's all too rarely preached these days when "listening to your heart" is the way to go.

If you have your doubts about the film for whatever reasons, read the review at PluggedIn.com. All the dirt is there; I won't rehash it here. If you're a fan of Jane Austen, forget it's supposed to be about her life. What we know of the truth has been embellished for dramatic effect. And if you don't want the ending spoiled before you've watched it, STOP HERE. Otherwise, in Mr. Bennet's words, Read on.

Realize the film to be the story of an idealistic young woman and a rather bored but daring young man who fall in love. She's poor; he's rich (with strings attached). Her parents are pressuring her to go in for money; his family (uncle in particular) wants him to marry rich. In a typical fairy tale, love would triumph and the two would marry and live happily ever after, the rich uncle coming around to the younger people's way of thinking. But not in this story. Because, well, afterall, this is real life.

After being forbidden to marry, Jane and Tom decide they cannot live without each other and run off to get married. As the eloping couple is on their way out of town, Jane discovers that in marrying her, Tom will be abandoning his siblings who depend on him for support. And from where does that income originate that allows a young man to support his numerous siblings? The opposing uncle, of course. Tom is ready to do leave his family, all for love. But Jane, oh! idealistic but reasonable, sensible Jane! she will not hear of it and instead of leaving town with the man she loves, she goes home to write stories about characters who must learn the balance between reason and romance, sense and sensibility. But now we are speaking of the real Jane Austen...

We know Austen had her chances for marriage, but she evidently felt that marriage at any cost was not something she could live with. The kind of love that leads to a happy marriage encompasses reason and romance, sense and sensibility. And you can't eliminate one from the scale and be truly happy. The two sides must be in balance. Listen to your heart, Austen seems to encourage, but don't let it lead you where your head can't follow.

Becoming Jane, image stills at Eras of Elegance.

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