Austen—A Romance Trope Creator?
The other day I was looking for one of my favorite TV adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma (the one where Mr. Knightley is played by Johnny Lee Miller) on Netflix (don’t bother; it’s not available there) and it got me thinking about how Austen basically created some of the most popular romance tropes to this day. Nothing new, I know, but I had never thought about it that way before.
Of course, not everyone is a fan or has read Austen’s books but I love them. She was ahead of her time, writing strong, willful women who fought for (and won) what they wanted and loved. It’s no wonder her popularity has survived for so long.
But less thought of when discussing Austen and her books is the fact that she was the “inventor” of at least three of the most popular tropes in romance literature today. The romance style is largely reviled by the “serious” readers today as crap or smut, but Austen is here to remind us that romance can be, and often is, a weapon against society’s prejudices and preconceived ideas about women (among other things). Not to mention the fact that romance can be well written and worth of as much praise and attention as any other genre of literature.
Pride and Prejudice, arguably the most famous of her works, is an enemies to lovers romance. Elizabeth Bennet begins as hating and being disliked by the handsome but brooding and often obnoxious Darcy. We all know how that ended.
In Persuasion (possibly my personal favorite) Anne Elliot unwisely shuns Captain Wentworth despite her love for him, but eventually gets her second chance with him. A second chance romance.
Emma is clearly a friends to lovers romance. Emma has a best friend in Mr. Knightley and despite her attempts at matching every single woman in town with the perfect bachelor, totally misses the fact that the one she loves has always been right in front of her.
Mansfield Park is both an example of forbidden romance and love triangle with poor young woman Fanny who is loved by one man but in love with her cousin who is promised in marriage to another woman. In fact, this is also a friends to lovers romance since Fanny was best friends with her cousin with whom she grew up.
Nowadays these tropes are still being written with varying degrees of success. I am personally partial to the friends-to-lovers and second chances tropes and have written a couple books along those lines. Which kind of proves that a good love story never goes out of style if Jane Austen’s vast popularity even today is anything to go by.
Do you read romance? Do you have a favorite trope? I’d love to hear from you.