Jane Austen novels - Life Lessons to Learn

Timeless life lessons we can learn from Jane Austen novels

Jane Austen was ahead of her time and would subtly critique the norms and beliefs of her day with her dark wit and humour.

Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park are among the many celebrated novels written by the English novelist Jane Austen. Her timeless stories have been turned into a plethora of movies, television shows and modern adaptations, in addition to being translated into multiple languages. It’s an incredible legacy considering her novels were originally published anonymously, during a period when women were perceived as incapable of creativity and intelligence in a male-dominated society. Her female characters have inspired women all over the world to break traditional moulds, stay true to themselves and stand for what they believe in.

Austen’s protagonists are bold, funny, clever, brave and ultimately flawed and imperfect in their own ways, teaching us important lessons on life, love and everything in between. She was way ahead of her time and would subtly critique the norms and beliefs of her day with her dark wit and humour. Here are a few life lessons we can all learn from her novels.

It’s never too late for a second chance

Life always offers us a second chance—it’s called tomorrow. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot turns down Frederick Wentworth because she was unsure about their future. In doing so, she almost loses him forever. But when they met again, both realise that they are still in love with one another and decide to make amends. The Jane Austen novel teaches us that it is never too late to start over and try again. So, when life gives you a second chance, grab it with both hands.

Appearances can be deceptive

You must have come across people who appear extremely charming, witty and pleasant at first. Their agenda may not always be obvious, but if they seem too good to be true, then you may need to proceed with caution. Don’t depend on them much because when you really need them, they may not come to your rescue. Such people can be selfish, mean, and at times, downright rude. Like George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. He appeared to be a model of a gentleman, but in truth, he was a liar and an opportunist, who gained Elizabeth Bennet’s sympathy by claiming to have been wronged by Fitzwilliam Darcy. Appearances can be deceiving. It is an important life lesson that you can learn from Jane Austen novels.

You need to stand your ground

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet could have taken Lady Catherine’s harsh criticism about her to heart, but instead, she stood up for herself and what she believed in. She responded to Lady Catherine’s animosity very coolly and didn’t let it hamper her self-esteem. In life, you will come across situations where you’ll be left with no other option but to stand up for yourself. Your self-worth can build your character and make you a better, stronger person.

Keep an open mind

Most of the time, we do not see things with an open mind. We have our preconceived notions and beliefs, and we try to project them onto current situations. Instead of seeking the truth, our mind is clouded by an elaborate theory that bears no resemblance to what’s going on in front of us. Learning to become more aware of our thoughts is an important step to see things more clearly. Just because it feels true doesn’t make it true. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet formed a negative opinion of Fitzwilliam Darcy when he snubbed her at a public dance. But when he showed kindness and courtesy towards her and her relatives, whom he had previously considered inferior, she understood that there is more to him than meets the eye.

You can say ‘no’

Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet speaks her mind and makes her voice heard, even to people who don’t want to hear it. Although she is loyal to her family and sensitive to the societal norms of the time, she does not let either of those things dictate her life or her choices. She politely declined William Collins’ offer of marriage and even turned down Mr. Darcy’s initial offer when she thought they were not right for one another. Similarly, you shouldn’t be afraid of letting other people down at the cost of your own happiness. It doesn’t make you rude, selfish or unkind.

Trust your own abilities

In Emma, a Jane Austen novel about youthful hubris and romantic misunderstandings, Emma Woodhouse doesn’t have the skills of an ‘accomplished woman’ of her social class. She has no musical talent whatsoever, yet she never lets it bring her down. She always appears confident and trusts her rationality and goodwill. It is her confidence is in her own abilities that takes her through difficult times, something we can all seek inspiration from.

Love is never at first sight

At first sight, you may feel an intense attraction towards someone, but don’t be in haste to call it love. To love someone truly, you must take time to know the person at a deeper level—their character, kindness, honesty, wisdom and sense of humour—and not just their physical appearance. Your initial response is merely wishful thinking and not a real emotion. True love can find you when you least expect it. In Sense and Sensibility, only after Marianne marries Colonel Brandon does she realise the true value of love.

An excess of anything is always bad

Nothing in this world is good for you if taken in excess. Being too emotionally expressive or vulnerable—without the ability to regulate and control one’s emotions—may cause a lot of drama. On the other hand, too much emotional control can make an individual appear distant and aloof. In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia Bennet has been described as someone with “high animal spirits and a sort of natural self-consequence.” So, it wasn’t a surprise when she came under the influence of George Wickham, who eloped with her with no intention of marrying. It was only after Mr. Darcy’s intervention that they eventually get married before moving to Newcastle for good.


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