Review: Becoming Jane

This 2007 film starring Anne Hathaway is the cinematic retelling of Jane Austen’s inspiration for her timeless novel Pride & Prejudice, but how does the movie compare to real life?

For my college history project, I researched the life and times of Jane Austen and embroidered her portrait as my final product.

From newspaper clippings and Jane’s letters to Lucy Worsley’s biography Jane Austen at Home and watching Becoming Jane, the connections I made across various sources were fascinating.

At the end of the project, I found myself disappointed that I was writing a 150-word caption instead of giving a week’s worth of seminars. There was so much to say about Jane Austen’s life, so I resort to this post to further digress.

Jane Austen is known worldwide as one of the best authors to grace the face of the earth, prestige which began with the humble composition of family plays. This hobby grew into the beginnings of novels that relatives were fond of her reading aloud. Still, Jane held the mindset that she was “good enough to recognize that others are better.”

With relational and financial difficulties, many historians credit Jane to have led quite a sad life, yet even she was able to enjoy pleasantries. Namely, Jane loved to embroider, once saying, “When stitching, a lady’s thoughts are her own.”

Jane also fancied the observation of those around her—their joys and struggles—a habit which wove many colors into her writing. From Napoleonic wars and prejudice, Jane created heartwarming stories. For this accomplishment, Jane Austen will forever be held in the hearts of many as the lady who “made the political into the personal.”

For Sale

A 7.5″ x 7.5″ portrait of Jane Austen priced at one cent per stitch.

Currently a napkin-shaped cloth. Can be framed or turned into a pillow for an additional charge.

FOR SALE — $15

After reading about the life and times of Jane Austen, I loved how Becoming Jane brought my textbook understanding to life. In particular, the romance between Jane’s brother Henry and her French cousin Eliza seemed aloof on paper but made more sense when I could see the chemistry between them on screen.

One major difference I found was how, in reality, Jane’s brother George actually lived far away and was unspoken of, shunned because of poor health conditions. In the movie, George is deaf and seemingly autistic but relatively close to Jane as the two sign to each other.

To the extent of my research, the movie is an accurate portrayal of Jane’s tight-knit relationship with her sister Cassandra, Cassandra’s fiance’s death, Jane’s agitation with her mother, and Jane’s closeness with her father. Reading about such circumstances and seeing them play out on screen gave colorful dimensions.

Then there is Jane’s relationship with Mr. Thomas Lefroy. The facts of their history are hardly more than a mystery, but Lucy Worsley suspects that Jane found true love with Tom, a bliss that prevented her from accepting the hand of anyone else.

Becoming Jane develops the ambiguity of this romance into the central plot of the film and Thomas as Jane’s key inspiration for Mr. Darcy.

Going off the film, I admire Jane’s decision to place the well-being of Tom’s family over her desires. For one who had finally found everything she had been looking for, this was an act of remarkable maturity and courage.

In the final scenes, we see an older and accomplished Jane, years down the road but still touched by her heartbreak about Tom Lefroy. Supposing that Pride & Prejudice is the result of such a loss, I draw a touching reminder that everything in our life occurs to help guide us to who we are meant to be.

Jane very much wanted to marry with affection but, without the heartbreak of losing such an opportunity, she may never have written the novel that has touched so many generations.

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