Welcome back to Author Fight Club, take two!
This week we welcome two of the most popular female authors in the literary canon. In one corner we have Jane Austen, author of several classics including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and more. In the other corner we have Charlotte Bronte with her feminist masterpiece, Jane Eyre.
The competition is based on three categories. First, we take a look at Who has more fans anyway? which will reoccur each week as we explore author influence and impact. The remaining categories are mystery categories that will change each week. Today, we’ve got Which character is most likely to scandalize society by showing an ankle? and Who is least likely to make students dread English class?
We don’t talk about Fight Club, so instead we’re going to write about it! Authors…take your positions. And…fight!
ROUND ONE: WHO HAS MORE FANS ANYWAY?
First, we take to Goodreads for a look at the numbers.
We’re going to look solely at Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for this round, considering it’s her most popular work. According to Goodreads, the book has roughly 2.8 million ratings, 62,998 reviews, and an average rating of 4.26. Now let’s take a peek at the most popular reviews:
via abe books
Stephen’s five-star (six-star?) review says, “6.0 stars. Confession…this book gave me an earth-shattering Janeaustegasm and I am feeling a bit spent and vulnerable at the moment, so please bear with me.”
Lady Nerd’s one-star review says, “Hatred is too strong an emotion to waste on this literary Twilight.” Why must everyone hate on Twilight so hard??
Zoe’s five-star review says, “THIS BOOK IS MY JAM. JANE AUSTEN IS MY JAM. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT HER AND THIS BOOK. READ THIS BOOK. THAT IS ALL.” Absolute mood.
As for Bronte? Jane Eyre has 1.5 million ratings, 40,143 reviews, and an average rating of 4.12. Now let’s turn it over to the readers!
Cristin’s five-star review says, “I could bang Mr. Rochester like a screen door ’till next Tuesday. That’s not all I got from this book, honestly…” Well then!
Emily’s three-star review says, “I feel like an a** saying this but… who actually thinks this is a cute romance!? What the actual f!!”
Miranda Reads’ five-star review says, “Oh Jane, you wondrously bold and beautiful gal.”
Both authors are staples of English literary study, and are well-known even by the literary-adverse. But with more ratings, more enthusiastic reviews, and considered one of the best five novelists in F.R. Leavis’ The Great Tradition, I think it’s safe to say Austen’s our champion for this round!
END OF ROUND ONE
AUSTEN = 1
BRONTE = 0
ROUND TWO: Which character is most likely to scandalize society by showing an ankle?
Let’s start by taking a look at some of Austen’s classic heroines. Fanny Price refused to participate in an improper play, let alone show an ankle, so I’d say she’s off the table. Emma is probably Austen’s wittiest heroines, though she always manages to do so in the most socially-acceptable way possible. And then we have Elizabeth Bennet, who rejected Darcy’s first proposal (I mean, it was a pretty terrible proposal) and then called him out on all his crap.
via laughing with lizzie
I will now bless you with Elizabeth’s savagery:
“I might as well enquire why with so evident a design of offending and insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character?…Had not my own feelings decided against you, had they been indifferent, or had they even been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?”
Tell him girl!!
But can any of Austen’s heroines really compare to Jane Eyre, the woman who rejects not one man, but two?
Despite accepting Mr. Rochester’s original proposal to marry, Jane discovers—in the literal middle of their wedding ceremony—that he is already married to a woman he keeps locked up in his attic. Mr. Rochester suggests Jane become his mistress since they can’t legally marry, but Jane is all ‘Hell no’ (and rightfully so!) and chooses to leave him.
Jane goes on to reject St. John’s marriage proposal as well, and eventually returns to Thornfield Hall, where Bertha Rochester has set fire to the house and jumped from a window to her death. Mr. Rochester is left blinded and without one of his hands.
Upon their reunion, Rochester asks, “Am I hideous Jane?” to which Jane responds, “Very sir; you always were you know.” Wow. Savage.
In the end, the pair proclaim their love for one another. Now that Rochester’s wife is dead, Jane agrees to marry him. As one of the oldest feminist heroines in English literature, Jane refuses to compromise her values, even if that means standing up to and rejecting the men in her life. Unlike Austen’s heroines, Jane has no rich family to fall back on; instead she must take care of herself, which makes her decision to reject multiple marriage proposals all the more powerful.
As a book that stirred up its fair share of scandal for being such a feminist text—and even more so when the author was revealed to be a woman—I think Jane Eyre‘s main character would gladly scandalize society by flashing an ankle or two.
With that said, Bronte ties it in Round Two!
END OF ROUND TWO
AUSTEN = 1
BRONTE = 1
ROUND THREE: Who is least likely to make students dread English class?
I know what you’re thinking: Why not compare the eligible (or not so eligible…ahem, Rochester) men of the novels? Or, better yet, look at which is the better love story?
But given the debate surrounding whether or not Jane Eyre is truly a romance novel (and frankly, I would have to agree with the people who say it’s not), we’re going to stay away from anything romance-related. (Besides, we all know Darcy is better than Rochester.)
That said, we’re going to bring you back to your beloved (or perhaps, not so beloved) English classrooms! Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice are both iconic texts that you’ve most definitely studied in high school or college. But just because they’re great books doesn’t necessarily mean you want to read them while you have seven other classes worth of work you need to be doing.
Every English student knows there’s only one way to survive class: binge read the book the night before it’s due.
via gift ideas
Let’s take a look at Pride and Prejudice first. Austen’s writing can certainly take some getting used to, given her long-winded sentences. But they’re rather beautiful sentences, especially once you untangle their meaning. The book also has fairly short chapters and is roughly 260 pages long. By the third quarter of the book, you’ll be fully engrossed in Elizabeth’s story as well as the many twists and turns the book has to offer. While I don’t think binge reading the book would be easy (or advisable), I do think it’s possible!
By contrast, Jane Eyre totals at about 700 words. While the book has many symbols and important scenes to unpack, it does drag at certain points. As someone who was assigned this book over Christmas break in my sophomore year of high school, let me tell you: this isn’t a book you want to be rushing through.
Jane Eyre is definitely an important text with feminist themes which were, at the time, unheard of. So while Jane Eyre’s text is a little more ~important~ per se, it’s definitely a bit of a toughie to read compared to Pride and Prejudice.
That said, I think Austen’s text would be the least likely to make you dread English class.
END OF ROUND THREE
AUSTEN = 2
BRONTE = 1
Both Bronte and Austen provide invaluable texts that will no doubt be studied for decades to come. With Bronte’s scandalously feminist text of her time, and Austen’s more bingeable reads, the fight is certainly a close one. Unfortunately, there can only be ONE Author Fight Club champ.
With a final punch from Austen, Bronte is down! K.O.
Austen has often been hailed as one of the best writers of the literary canon, and rightfully so. Women might not have been much respected at the time she was writing in, but Austen decided to write about the one thing women held power in: marriage. Each of her works explores the marriage plot, but more importantly, their heroines must navigate social expectations and their own moral compasses.
Based on today’s categories, Austen has shown herself to be more popular and widely-read, is more accessible in the English classroom, and is praised by literary critics and readers alike. With that, I declare Jane Austen this week’s winner.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next week’s Author Fight Club, where we welcome Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo into the ring!