Saturday, March 31, 2007

Becoming Jane

I am not really a social body, but I am trying to nurture a circle of friends beyond the holy huddle, so when the ladies at Joe's office invited me to join them at the cinema to see "Becoming Jane" I took them up on the offer. Going to see a film is not exactly something that encourages great conversation and relationship building – what else is there to say but, “No thanks,” when the bag of liquorice allsorts passes by for the umpteenth time?

Although I have read “Pride and Prejudice” and drooled at a dripping Colin Firth rising from the lake at Pemberly in the BBC adaptation, I don’t really know that much about Jane Austin.

Having seen the film, and assuming that it is based on fact, she has joined my heroines list. Agent Scully from the X-Files has long been number one in the list – for always being the first to go into scary dark places! She doesn’t do the shivering wreck thing that many women do. Judi Dench is also in the list somewhere. I remember watching a programme about her life and deciding that she was living the life that I wanted! Jo Brand hit the list earlier on by learning to play the organ and playing some complicated piece in the Albert Hall in front of thousands of people. Marg Simpson is also on the list because she loves Homer and I would find him very hard to love – although at times he reminds me of Joe!

At the time when Jane lived women were very much encouraged to marry – and marry well if they could - and have children. She had the chance to marry well but turned it down because she was looking for love. When she found love, although she had a chance to elope with the young man, she chose not to – not because she minded losing her reputation, but because she didn’t want him to lose his. As one of the characters said to her at the end of the film, “It appears that you won’t marry for money…and you won’t marry for love either.”

I found it challenging that didn’t choose the safe option. She never married at all in the end although she was in a position to do so. She was not prepared to take the second best option. She was not prepared to compromise to make life easier for herself. She did not live her life to fit in with other people’s expectations. Even choosing to become a writer and get her books published was not the done thing, but she did it. I admire her courage and commitment to principles that she wasn’t prepared to brush aside when they became inconvenient.

Where is the balance between pursuing you own plans so doggedly and fulfilling family obligations and duties? Her independence came at a price and it wasn’t just Jane who was paying but her family too.

There are things that I know I would like to do, but I often feel the pressure of responsibilities. The tutor at the creative writing course shared with us that she was retiring from her teaching post so that she could pursue her writing full time. She had written a novel that had never been printed, had begun a second novel and wanted to see it come to something. She could afford to do that and there was always supply teaching to fall back on.

I guess that Jane considered the price of things she really wanted. Some things, like marrying the lawyer, came at too high a price and would have brought more suffering than joy. Other things – the suffering would have come through not doing it and she was willing to pay the price.

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