What I Learned in Bath

Even having watched movies based on Jane Austen’s novels, it is difficult to build an authentic image of the world that she lived in and was inspired by. However, as our tour bus rounded the corner and made the city of Bath visible in all of its neoclassical glory, I felt for a brief moment that perhaps I was able to share some of her world. What is hardest to comprehend is that while I feel I am looking at a relic, a piece of antiquity preserved just for my curiosity and enjoyment, she in turn, was viewing a city on the cutting edge of fashion.
In addition to the general Austen ambiance that was a part of our visit to Bath, there were several interesting facts that, for me, really provided insight into why she wrote about what she did. For instance, the favorable portrayals of sailors in a lot of her novels, especially Persuasion, drew from her own brothers’ experiences on the sea; sharing in her sister’s tragic loss of a fiancé, she was able to convey the deep levels of pain that loosing your companion can create such as, when Elinor believes Edward to be married or Jane’s discontent when Bingly leaves suddenly to town; and lastly, having herself refused to be a part of a clandestine marriage, she was able to infuse that same independence into her strong female characters.
Although she didn’t write any of her standard works while in Bath, it seems she was able to glean the experiences that informed many of her novels during her stay. While there, she would have been able to observe a variety of people in different situations and develop the unique and insightful view of society that was splashed throughout the pages of her novels. Her family’s life was not the ideal—neither she, nor her sister, ever married, when her father died they were left almost penniless, and one of her brothers had severe disabilities. Her life, like so many others’ was full of challenges. Yet, through the small sheets of paper that she scribbled on, she was able to find solace in a world where things turned out well in the end. Because even with the awe inspiring grandeur of her environment, life remained a difficult thing to bear at times and one had to maintain hope that tomorrow would lead to a favorable resolution.


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