Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jane Austen Quote of the Week 295

Last night I was fortunate enough to go to see James McAvoy (yes our Becoming Jane Tom Lefroy) in a production on stage of The Ruling Class by Peter Barnes. He was absolutely phenomenal as the paranoid schizophrenic born into a wealthy, aristocratic British family. This play, focussed on social classes has stayed in my mind and today it made me wonder about Jane Austen and how the classes interacted in her time.

Jane Austen wrote often about her world and this included her social class, the gentry. The manners and customs of the gentry are always present in Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I have chosen a quote from chapter 19 of Sense and Sensibility where Edward Ferrars is speaking:

"We never could agree in our choice of profession. I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel enough; many young men, who had chambers in the Temple, made a very good appearance in the first circles, and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse study of it, which my family approved. As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter it- (…) I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since"

This fascinates me as in some ways our perceptions, customs and social interactions have changed so much from these times until today but in other ways we are still facing the same issues. For example young people today, in the culture I have familiarity with, typically have autonomy and freedom of choice in terms of their career paths (I do appreciate that this does not apply to all cultures), this suggests that traditions and connections with older times are fading. However at a time where our government in the UK are discussing university tuition fees and affordable housing for average paid workers, it is apparent that the questions and deliberations of class divide that also existed in Jane Austen's time are still very real and at the forefront of many peoples lives.


Icha said...

you saw James McAvoy! Totally jealous! Good on you, Rachel, and thanks a lot for the quote...

Linda Fern said...

They gotta make a movie with James in it so I can see it because I can't get to England. I'm so jealous, but I'll be okay. And I love the "class" discussion - very interesting even today. Thanks Rachel,

Yrs aff'ly,
Linda the Librarian