In Trisha's post a few weeks ago, she said she was dissecting Jane Austen's work to see why it was still so popular. That sounded like a very entertaining task she had set herself, so I decided to join her. Here's my opinion. I'd love to hear yours.
(Unfortunately there are a few spoilers here--don't click on the appropriate link if you don't want to know. At the very end I spoil Howl's
as well. Consider yourself warned.) Moving Castle
What makes Jane Austen so enduringly popular? In my opinion, there are two main reasons. Let's call them the Anti-Apocalypse Principle and the Howl Effect.
The Anti-Apocalypse Principle
Jane Austen is enduringly popular because of her romances. (Is anyone surprised?) But her romances remain popular because of the rigid social and religious conventions that defined her era. When so much is forbidden, even a glance can be filled with romance. And a touch? Wow.
Contrast that to sexual tension that is constantly pushing the envelope...eventually there is nowhere left to go. (I really, really don't want to know if you disagree with that sentence. :)
Trying to write a romantic storyline in a world where anything and everything is acceptable follows the exact same principle Sabrina wrote about in her post yesterday about writing the end of the world:
"Frankly, the overall ubiquity of world-ending plotlines makes the whole thing a little boring, and can take away from the tension. Some writers try to up it by making this the end of all existence. One wonders where they'll go from there: the end of existence, and you still have to do laundry first?"
The Anti-Apocalypse Principle in Action:
Pride and Prejudice
The Howl Effect
insight into Jane Austen's brilliance (I know, I know, she didn't write it. Just
bear with me for a minute.) The genius of Howl's Moving
is this--When the story starts, you cannot see how it could possibly be a
romance. The heroine has been cursed to look and feel like she is in her late
80s! How could Howl fall in love with someone he treats like a grandmother? Ew. Moving Castle
And then--at the end--this is the spoiler!--you find out he's been in love with her all along! It's the most fantastic ending ever. But the fun part is reading it again--and again--to see if you can figure out when it happened. His character becomes more rich and our belief that happy endings are possible for everyone increases with every reading.
I think Jane Austen does the same thing. Characters seem doomed for unhappy endings--not marrying the person you love is much more dire when you have no chance of taking care of your self. And when, at the end, they end up perfectly happy, we read and reread (and watch and rewatch) so that we can find the clues that happiness was waiting for them (and for us??) all along.
The Howl Effect In Action:
Sense and Sensibility
What do you think?