This occurred to me earlier today as I watched an adaptation of Emma (1996, starring Kate Beckinsale) by Jane Austen.
Jane Austen’s novels are like mirrors; they can reflect back to the reader his or her true character. And those are the themes that lie at the very heart of her works — character and mind. All the other themes like love, marriage, happiness, security, and so on, flow from those two. Her heroines had great characters and excellent minds; consequently, they found happiness in the end. Her antagonists suffered unhappy marriages, scandals, insecurity, dishonor, and disgrace precisely because they did not have character and their minds were deficient — they were either silly or stupid.
And I see myself a lot in her antagonists. Her novels reflect back to me my real character — how horrible, morally deficient, weak-willed and dark-minded I really am. I commiserate with her villains and I scream in agony, Why, oh why, can’t I be a protagonist? Why can’t I be a good man? Why can’t I have a good character and an excellent mind? Why can’t I be a real gentleman, someone who Austen herself might approve of or admire, and not a scoundrel?
Then I realized, unlike Austen’s fictional characters, I am not trapped in a novel. My fate is not sealed. I have not been given my lines by the Author of life — I am free to create my own script. Yes, it is true that I am in a story, in a narrative, but the Author has given me His pen and He tells me, “Here, write your own story, write your own script, make your character and mind excellent, and pen your own destiny.”
I want to imagine that I am in one of Jane Austen’s novels and she tells me, “Here, Mr Cuales, write your own script, write your own story, build your own character, cultivate your own mind, choose your own circumstances and the company you wish to keep. You are free to do as you please, but I’d love to see you become a gentleman. I trust that you are capable of that. You have my pen, after all.”