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6 life lessons a male reader learned from Jane Austen

Writer William Deresiewicz shares how Austen changed his life in "A Jane Austen Education."

- Molly Driscoll, Monitor contributor

2. Growing up with 'Pride and Prejudice'

When Deresiewicz read "Pride and Prejudice," he was attending graduate school at Columbia University, where he'd also gone for his undergraduate degree and where his father was a faculty member. He'd considered going to Chicago for graduate school, but "the prospect of moving to an unfamiliar city.... was not something I could even begin to imagine," he wrote. He was living in a Manhattan apartment and leading a student's life – sleeping until noon, then staying up all night to read. He had an epiphany about truly maturing as a person when he read of Elizabeth Bennett's struggles, as she is secure in her knowledge of Mr. Darcy's character – and by extension, her ability to judge everyone correctly – then suddenly realizes how utterly wrong she was. "By putting me through Elizabeth's experiences – by having her make mistakes and learn from them, and having me stumble and learn right there along with her – what the novel was really showing me was how to grow up," Deresiewicz wrote. He was used to thinking of growing up as hitting milestones, getting a first apartment, getting a job. Austen saw it as making mistakes and learning from them. After he passed his exams, Deresiewicz decided to move to Brooklyn to start a new chapter in his life outside of his comfort zone.


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