Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
‘There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.’
This is one of my favourite quotes spoken by one of my all-time favourite literary heroines, the one and only Elizabeth Bennet. What I really love about it is the sense of defiance that burns through these words when I read them. I think that at the time of writing, which was the 19thcentury for Austen, the idea that a woman was so headstrong and opinionated was quite radical and disapproved of – but that didn’t stop Austen creating a character who is now perhaps one of the most famous heroines in the history of literature because she was so determined to speak her mind. The confusing thing for me, as a 21stcentury reader, is the acknowledgement that even now, there are some who will consider the characteristic of ‘stubbornness’ as unfavourable for women to have. That is partly why I think that this quote so strongly resonates as I share that defiance and aspire to have that confidence demonstrated here in this quote. I think this quote is very apt and relevant for any young feminist reader as it is so empowering. The idea of intimidation sparking an increase in courage rather than an increase in vulnerability and insecurity is a valuable message.
Maggie O’Farrell, I Am I Am I Am.
‘What I wish I had known, aged twenty-one, as I cycled away from the results board towards the meadow by the river in Cambridge, where I would throw stones into the water and cry, is that nobody ever asks you what degree you got…That the things in life which don’t go to plan are usually more important, more formative, in the long run, than the things that do.”
I find it hard to choose a favourite quote, because the books that I enjoy, I enjoy because they resonate with me at a certain time of my life. I cannot say that a particular quote is my lifelong favourite, because I am an ever evolving human, and my life experiences are constantly changing. But, I wanted to share with you a quote from a book I have just finished. O’Farrell’s seventeen brushes with death depicts how her life has been threatened many times. It shows how she has been vulnerable as a girl alone on a walk, how her body has nearly failed her at times, but also how resilience and compassion fuel life. Right now, I am a university student, and I am (quite honestly) struggling to get my head around the world right now, never mind complete my final year. So, I think that this book quote is something that I needed to hear, and something I needed to see in the words of a literary genius. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve, and actually it is a lot more than that most of the time-we want to exceed expectations. This book taught me about the fragility of life, and how the world is something that needs to be grasped, enjoyed and filled to its potential fullness. Heading into a second lockdown, it is important to be reminded that life is precious, not only to keep ourselves and others safe, but also to make the most of a bad and isolating situation.
Image from Unsplash.