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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."

2. Growing up with 'Pride and Prejudice'

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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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