Austen According to Students
Jane Austen is a talented writer, most would admit. Her novels have been published throughout the world and are still selling well today. But who is reading them? Has she fallen into the category of a novelist you should read, rather than want to? Is she a writer reserved for a generation that has passed us by?
To try and answer some of these questions and just for sheer interest, we asked four students from a variety of backgrounds studying contrasting degrees where they stood with Austen.
1. Did your family encourage you to read Jane Austen when you were growing up?
Yes. We watched the movies and Mum brought me all the books.
Not really, no, they encouraged me to read but they didn’t think Austen would be something I was interested in.
2. Would you say you read mainly for pleasure or for your university course?
Mainly educational books for my course.
Pleasure, definitely. If I had a chance to read Austen for my course I would take it!
A mixture of both but mainly pleasure.
3. Which (if any) Jane Austen books have you read?
Most of them.
Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and part of Sense and Sensibility but I gave up on that because I didn’t like the Dashwood sisters very much.
Pride and Prejudice and Emma.
Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Emma and Mansfield Park
4. Which demographic would you say reads the most Austen?
Middle class/intelligent females, both teens and adults.
I have no idea! Maybe ladies aged 18-60? It has a lot of appeal for lots of different demographics so I would hesitate to call them “novels for ladies” or something like that.
Starting as a young adult then continuing. Probably middle to upper class.
Women. Possibly younger women (14-30 ish).
5. If you could be a character from any Austen novel, who would you be?
I don’t know.
Oh, man. I’ll go for the obvious answer and say I’d like to be as witty and sharp and perceptive as Elizabeth Bennet.
Marianne Dashwood/ Elizabeth Bennet.
6. Can Austen compete with the likes of The Hunger Games or Twilight?
The Hunger Games are easier to read and are more accessible.
There are millions of better stories about love and infatuation than Twilight, and I can’t think of a writer who wrote about Austen’s kind of real love as effectively as she did.
No, it’s totally different and in my personal opinion much better.
Yes, definitely, but on a different level. It has a lot more cultural and historical richness which means it has stood the test of time so far, which The Hunger Games and Twilight have yet to do.
7. Do you think Austen will endure?
She will always be read but maybe not so much in the future.
Yes, she wrote timeless Classics.
Yes, she has done so far and I don’t see any real reason why it shouldn’t continue. Its basic themes are still relevant to modern day life and Austen’s witty style still draws modern readers into her world.
I think she’ll survive, yes she will.
Well, there we have it! Our results conclude that Austen was introduced at least vaguely into most of our students’ childhoods, they mainly read for pleasure and each have read at least a couple of the novels. Encouragingly, the majority think Austen will continue to endure. What is interesting and perhaps worrying is that Austen appears to them to be limited to women. Are there not ways in which we can expand the diversity of readers? Can men not enjoy her too? It seems everyone wants to be Elizabeth Bennet, but not everyone wants to be Mr. Darcy….
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