Peter Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals: the Christian novels of Jane Austen was a fairly easy read for such an academic sort of text.
My favorite Jane Austen novels are the ones where the lovers improve one another, instead of one doing all the teaching and the other doing all the learning. For example, I’m not as fond of Mr. Knightley’s shaping Emma into someone he can marry, or Fanny Price waiting for Edmund to get his stuff together and stop mooning over the terror Mary. I think that Henry Tilney’s patient wading through Catherine’s drama is admirable, but…none of these upstanding citizens seem to have real flaws of their own to work out.
I feel like Eleanor is a halfway character in this regard. Obviously, she makes mistakes, believes her sister to be engaged when she is not, misjudges people…but her dumbcluck Edward Ferrars doesn’t do much more than Hugh Grant does in the movie – look rather effeminate and pussy-foot around confronting his own idiocy.
See, what I love are Elizabeth and Darcy and Anne and Wentworth (so maybe I’m a sucker for surnames, sue me) who both make mistakes, who both fail, who both are forgiven and redeemed. Marriage is not a savior scenario. My spouse will not swoop down and deliver me from my follies. We will both have follies that most likely will cause both of us trouble and heartache and that will have to patiently be worked out and forgiven, once again, by both of us. Feel free to disagree, but that’s how I feel.
I really enjoyed Leithart’s read of the novels. I thought he was clever, interesting and engaging, while being academically sound. This is a good overview of all the novels, with interesting tidbits and solid questions for either discussion or just everyday pondering. I highly recommend. (Plus, anyone who saves Persuasion for last and describes Anne and Wentworth’s love story as the indomitable love of a woman for a man, a love which anchors him, has my vote, for sure.)