Jane Austen is not exactly known as a children’s author, but wouldn’t you know it? The Oxford University Press just released their “all-new children’s classics” last month. Since the Oxford folk are a rather selective bunch, they only released 36 children’s books, and while Heidi, The Jungle Book, and Oliver Twist were obvious picks, I was surprised and delighted to find Pride and Prejudice included in their collection. So way to go Jane!
Want to see the entire list?
Why might Austen be included with children’s books? Isn’t she more for women? Isn’t she all about romance? Yes and yes, but Austen’s books are first about families. When we read her, we want to be a better sister, daughter, father, cousin. Don’t we love the way that Emma dotes on her father? Isn’t it sweet how Edmund gives his lonely and uprooted cousin a little journal? Aren’t we touched that it becomes her most prized possession?
Aren’t we moved when Eleanor and Marianne cling to each other after they are ejected out of Eden and tossed into a much more cruel world. Of course they are still sisters, and so they still deal with misunderstandings and hurt feelings, but their love and loyalty are stronger.
In P & P, we have a family of five sisters who can annoy each other to pieces, and yet they must somehow still get along. We learn that despite our parents’ foibles and our siblings’ gratings, we still are always loyal. We need them, and they need us, and when the storm comes, we gather together and hold fast to each other.
But Austen does not just talk about family. She talks about courtship because in the end courtship becomes family. We learn how men should treat the ladies, we learn how we should talk to each other, and we learn that we must be kind even we would rather ignore our obnoxious cousins.
In this world where families are facing more and more pressures, where girls are becoming more and more forward, where chastity seems as outdated as a country ball, and where marriage happens after the baby, Austen might be far more relevant than The Bachelor.
In what ways do you think our society should be more like Jane’s Austen’s society?
Next post will talk about how to get your kids going on Austen.