At First Things. An interesting piece, with some good stuff to chew on.
She could manage that neat trick of transposing the Cinderella plot into six undoubted masterpieces because her chosen marriage theme gave her the perfect background for analyzing character and investing her stories with remarkable drama. How could it be otherwise, given the almost absolute necessity for a woman in Regency England to find a suitable mate and the consequences that befell her if she made a bad choice? And what with the stylized rituals of behavior that governed society at the time, how could a marriageable young woman assay gold from dross? How might she distinguish reality from appearance, or authenticity from artifice, when society ran on the machinery of artifice to begin with? Operating inside these constraints, Austen�s talents allowed her to analyze the complexity of human behavior, the subtle variations of motivation, and the difficulty of judging true character from false in a world of deceptive appearances. For an unmarried woman could easily be led into a disastrous marriage based on her poor reading of a young man�s character�which itself would mean a ruined life for her, although rarely for him. In other words, Austen took Plato�s insight�that politics will lead to disaster unless it can distinguish truth from its simulacrum�and domesticated it. And is that not an artist�s chief claim on the attentions of future generations: to teach us how to distinguish the true from the deceptively true?