Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jane Austen Characters as Modern-Day Musicians: Pink, Kesha, and Alicia Keys

I have recently started learning how to play the bass guitar. It is giving me a whole new sense of appreciation for music, and I have begun to listen to music and view musicians in an entirely new light.

So, as most things make me think of Jane Austen, this made me think about her novels differently. What current musicians and music would best illustrate these characters?

I immediately think of Pink for Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett. Pink is full of spunk, witty lyrics, and imaginative song rhythms. Plus, just like Elizabeth, she is a longtime favorite and has great staying power. Her beautiful and introverted older sister Jane? Nora Jones—her songs are lovely and engaging melodies that entice your attention but soon fade into the distance. Her foolish younger sister Lydia? A young Britney Spears—all show and no talent, full of vamping and immature sex appeal.

Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility? Kesha all the way. A little bit ridiculous and brash, but a lot of fun with her catchy singsong voice and techno attention-getting beats. Marianne’s sister Elinor makes me think of Adele—much more somber and mature in her song choices, but with an elegant and controlled voice that soothes.

Hmm...Emma’s Emma Woodhouse… I would have to say Taylor Swift. A little immature and focused primarily on relationships, but overall, imaginative in the musical rifts and rhythms and a consistent squeaky-clean favorite of the musical world.

And my favorite, Anne Elliot of Persuasion? That would have to be Alicia Keys—the subtle use of her voice and melodies, the importance of the piano, the inherent romanticism in her lyrics, all set in major keys of hope and optimism.

I’ll have to think a little more on the male characters in Jane Austen’s novels. I am thinking they are more Classic Rock musicians, with a little Bruno Mars, Psy, and Adam Levine thrown in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How It Should Have Ended: Emma with Frank and Elizabeth a spinster aunt?

My niece recently showed me the YouTube link to a series of creative and funny changes to the endings of movies, called “How It Should Have Ended.” They made me laugh, until I started to think about Jane Austen. What if her books had ended differently?

Emma could have easily missed her opportunity with Mr. Knightley, slowly evolving into a wealthy version of the incessant Miss Bates. Or why couldn’t Emma have been a good match with Frank Churchill? He made her laugh and act her age; they could have gone on double dates with Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax.

God forbid if Elizabeth Bennett had been forced into marriage with Mr. Collins in order to beat the entail. Hard as I try, though, I just can’t imagine her winding up with him, or even Wickham, or ever deferring to Lady de Bourgh. Maybe she would have enjoyed the freedom of living with Jane and Mr. Bingley, being the lovable spinster aunt to their children and continuing to use her sharp wit in society.

Elinor Dashwood could have fallen in love with the similarly-minded Colonel Brandon and missed all of that heartache with Lucy and Edward. Actually, why not really shake things up and let her mother Mrs. Dashwood find love again with Colonel Brandon? And why not let Marianne run off to London to enjoy a bohemian life of romance, balls, literature and music? She could have become the 19th century version of Anais Nin or Frida Kahlo.

An alternative ending to Persuasion is easy—a marriage between the young Anne Elliott and the newly enlisted Frederick Wentworth that is welcomed and approved by Sir Walter and Lady Russell. Although I guess that would be way too easy. Maybe Anne Elliott could go through some psychotherapy to find a way to stand up to her oafish father and self-infatuated sisters, and then she could write about her experiences and becomes a famous and rich author.

Although it is fun to imagine alternative endings, it makes me appreciate all the more the artistry and talent of Jane Austen. She has created engaging and beloved characters and timeless plots that endure to this day.