In Pursuit of Happiness: An Aristotelian Appreciation of Jane Austen - www.alwayscatholic.com
“Give us grace to endeavor after a truly Christian spirit to seek to attain that temper of forbearance and patience of which our blessed savior has set us the highest example; and which, while it prepares us for the spiritual happiness of the life to come, will secure to us the best enjoyment of what this world can give.” —from Jane Austen’s Prayers
In this first article in a series on Austen as viewed through the lens of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, Brother Aquinas Beale re-considers the words of Scottish philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, who concluded that Austen's works were "the last great representative of the classical tradition of virtues.”
Brother Beale discusses, in illuminating detail, the parallel between the character arcs of Austen's main and minor characters and Artistotle's theory of virtues. He supports MacIntyre's position that Jane considered, in the writing of her novels, the ethical theory that the "pursuit of happiness is the goal of all human action" and proves this most pointedly in his analysis of the conversions of Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, Marianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet. The self-reflection, change of heart and subsequent transformation of these characters is rewarded with the ultimate prize of happiness by each novels' end.
It is often said that Austen's works are a study of and reflection on the subject of marriage in her day, and in large part this is true, but as Austen was the daughter of a clergyman it is not far-fetched to consider, as did Alastair MacIntyre, that her works were also centered on a marriage of a different sort, that of Christian and classical themes.
I am looking forward with great anticipation to the continuation of Brother Beale's discussion of this topic. The analysis provided by a person of the clergy affords a new and exciting perspective on Austen's work.