After watching the movie, “The Jane Austen Book Club,” which followed several couples whose stories mirrored those in Austen’s books, I decided to reread Sense and Sensibility. While plowing through the incredibly long and obtuse introduction to the book, I couldn’t help wondering what Jane would think of it. Did she really mean to say all the things the author of the introduction said she meant to say? How would she feel if she found out that kids were studying her book in school and adults were studying it in book clubs? Did she mean her books to be studied? Or did she mean for them to be read?
I can’t think of anything more terrible than having my books taught in school. Well, of course I can think of a lot of worse things. On the list of world horrors, it comes pretty far down on the list. And, on a personal level, not being read at all would be worse. But still . . . I think it would be dreadful for kids to sit in a stuffy classroom, bored out of their skulls, trying to figure out what I meant.
On the bizarre off-chance of that every happening, I’ll tell you right now what I meant. I meant for people to enjoy the stories. I meant for people to be taken away from their mundane lives for a couple of hours. I meant for people to read themselves to sleep and to wake up thinking about my world. And after all that, if I got anyone to wonder about the truth of anything my characters say, so much the better.
Did I have a theme? Did I use words in a certain way to create moods? Did I use symbols, such as lemon drops, as shortcuts to explain emotions? Of course I did. But including those was more for me, to keep me focused on the story. Because that is what I write. Stories. Not books to be studied, but stories to be read.