The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After
Vanessa Oblinger |
A Review of Elizabeth Kantor's Book
There is no denying that Jane Austen, though born in 1775, is actually a modern day love guru. In The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor explains exactly why. Using Jane Austen’s work, Kantor successfully makes the case for a strong male/female relationship consisting of permanent love and happiness. In an American popular culture jaded by promiscuity and high divorce rates, this book is a welcome reminder of the incredible worth of lasting love.
Divorce, break ups, and casual sex are all just accepted by millions in today’s culture. Through the examples of Pride and Prejudice character Elizabeth Bennet and the other love champions who are Jane Austen heroines, Kantor shows why a woman’s style, morals and standards should never be forfeited in the quest for love and happiness. Quick “fixes” of happiness amount to nothing in the long run and will not guide a woman to her own Mr. Darcy. Kantor explores the errors countless women make today, and she uses examples of real-life tabloid explosions to prove her point and expose the genuine pain that results: the graphic DC sex blogger Jessica Cutler, and Ashley Alexander Dupre, the centerpiece of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.
Kantor argues that, without the pre-requisite presence of love, sex shouldn’t be part of any relationship. She highlights journalist and former rock historian Dawn Eden, whom Kantor refers to as a real-life veteran of the sex-and-the-city-style New York dating scene: “…the longer [Eden] did that kind of dating, the more she saw sex and romance as a competition, ranked men in terms of how they measured up in alpha-male qualities, and consequently lost the ability to notice the kind of man with whom she might find real love.” Kantor contends that today’s shallow standards actually make it less likely that women will find realistic, happy relationship compatibility.
One of the goals Kantor emphasizes for achieving an Austen-like happiness is that women cannot prey on men’s weaknesses, nor can men prey on women’s weaknesses. This point is crucial to women who find themselves in sexual relationships with men who won’t commit. While the woman preys on the man’s expecting her to be sexually intimate, the man preys on the woman’s vulnerability that comes from hoping for a permanent relationship. Kantor devotes an entire chapter on coping with men’s fear of commitment.
Kantor makes another point essential to the happiness of the women in society today. One of her “Janeite Tips” is: “Don’t be afraid to put relationships first in your life. You can get them right and still succeed in a demanding career.” Feminists may categorize this “tip” as outdated and even discourage women from simultaneously developing careers and investing genuine efforts into their relationships. Kantor argues that, while there’s nothing wrong with being a career-oriented woman, we must never be ashamed to admit to ourselves that the people in our lives matter more to us than any accomplishment of our own.
Kantor does a wonderful job with Austen’s character traits as she explains their paths to happily ever after. The Jane Austen heroines all shared imperfections and made mistakes along the way to genuine self-fulfillment. Yet their realistic thought processes, complex journeys and relationship scenarios are the reason why so many women today can relate to them. Kantor has compiled an excellent set of rules women are able to use to assess their progress on the road to success. She calls it ‘adopting an Austen attitude’ and urges readers to ask themselves, “What would Jane do?”
For those who haven’t read all the works of Jane Austen, Kantor provides summaries and background information for each character so that a reader can quickly grasp her key themes and concepts. This book is truly a wonderful guide for any woman to read: a college student struggling with her identity … a woman in love with a man who shies from commitment … a career woman … a single woman looking for love and answers … and even a wife who’s looking for a reminder or reassurance about happiness in her marriage.
Vanessa Oblinger is a senior at Central Michigan University and a spring intern at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.