Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

By the time I had read letter number five of this epistolary work, I already intensely disliked the title character, Lady Susan. As I continued reading, I realized that Jane Austen intended exactly that, so I didn't feel too bad about it.

I was a bit surprised by the epistolary style, as I hadn't expected that. It seems to me a difficult way to tell a story, but Jane Austen (and I'm not at all surprised) manages it handily. The interesting aspect of the letter form is that that characters reveal more about themselves than what the letters actually say.

Most of the letters are from Lady Susan herself, and one would suppose that by telling her own story, she would be able to cast it in a most favorable light. But even if the only letters we had were Lady Susan's own, her true character, her duplicity, and her artfulness would be revealed, simply because she has one friend with whom she is completely candid about her schemes.

Lady Susan is as clever as Elizabeth Bennet, as self-willed as Lady Catherine DeBurg, as fond of matchmaking as Emma Woodhouse, and as generally pleasing as Elinor Dashwood. Unfortunately, her principles are those of Lydia Bennet, or perhaps Maria Bertram, which is to say, in short, that the ends justify the means. I think Mary Crawford might have been like Lady Susan, if she had been poor. My apologies to anyone who has not read all of Jane Austen's books, as these references will not make much sense, but I couldn't help comparing Lady Susan to other Austen characters.

As a matter of fact, I wasn't very fond of any of the characters in this story, and I don't think Jane Austen was, either. All of her books have a little touch of satire in them here and there, but this seems more like a full-fledged farce--a delicious little parody of some of the "types" Jane observed in society. I felt a little sorry for Frederica, but she wasn't exactly a shining character, and Reginald....well, Reginald should have known better.

The shortness of this story doesn't allow for the character development I'm used to with Jane Austen, but for the length of the work, I think she has done a marvelous job. Jane Austen never disappoints.

I wish I had more time to write about this here, but I'm late posting as it is. I read this book to join in the Slaves of Golconda discussion, so if you are interested in other opinions, check out what others have written.


At 11:03 PM , Blogger Dorothy W. said...

I like your comparisons to other Austen characters. I liked Lady Susan a bit more than you did, I think -- I found her energy and her wit amusing at least. But we are definitely ont meant to admire her!

At 1:50 AM , Blogger Quillhill said...

I liked Lady Susan, too. As a character, I think she is quite wonderful. As a person she is probably not all that great. None of the other characters are likeable.


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