Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the theme of second chances, perhaps because I’ve been working on what I’m hoping will grow up to be at least a novella. I love stories about couples who dated when they were young but broke up and eventually married other people. Then years later, they are reunited with the love of their youth and get a second chance at happiness together. I must not be alone because the PBS show “Last Tango in Halifax” (about two people who find each other again when they’re in much older with grown children) is very popular. These stories have a major “sigh” factor that’s obviously appealing.
Since this is a blog about Jane Austen, when I say “second chances,” I’m sure you immediately thought of Persuasion, one of literature’s all time best stories of second chances. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth are briefly betrothed, but Anne is persuaded to break off the relationship by friends and family who claim to have her best interests at heart. Wentworth is angry and Anne is broken-hearted. When they meet again, Anne is forced to watch as he courts some of her friends. Wentworth works through his anger and acknowledges Anne is the only woman he loves. Will they get a second chance?
Here are a few lines from the letter he writes to her – probably one of the most romantic letters in literature: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”
Austen used variations of this second chance theme in more than one of her stories although some of the time frames are much shorter than the eight and a half year time period in Persuasion.
Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth angrily turns down Darcy’s first proposal. Eventually she realizes she may have made a mistake, and after reevaluating his character, is fortunate enough to receive another offer. Jane Bennet is in love with Charles Bingley, but his sisters (and Darcy) come between them. Jane believes she will never see her Mr. Bingley again. Darcy realizes his mistake in helping to separate his friend from the woman he loves and well…you know the rest. HEA!
Sense and Sensibility: Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars meet and become friends or possibly more than friends, but Edward is already secretly betrothed to someone else. Honor requires he follow through with his promise in spite of the fact that he feels nothing now for Lucy Steele and everything for Elinor. Eventually, Edward is released from his promise and seeks out Elinor, hoping she might still care for him. Of course she does! HEA!
Mansfield Park: Fanny Price has been in love with her cousin Edmund Bertram for years, but while he cares very much for Fanny, he has set his sights on someone else – the conniving Mary Crawford. Eventually, Mary Crawford’s true colors are revealed, and Edmund realizes he should be with Fanny. HEA!
Emma: Emma Woodhouse has known Mr. Knightly all her life and thinks of him as her dearest friend. It is only when she realizes she may have lost Mr. Knightly to someone else that she recognizes she loves him. Fortunately, Mr. Knightly has been waiting for her. HEA!
What do you think of stories about second chances? Please share your thoughts.
Giveaway!!! For a giveaway, I’m offering a license plate cover that says “On My Way to the Meryton Assembly.” I’ll randomly choose a winner from all those who comment on this post.
Book suggestions by Austen Variations authors with a second chance theme:
Abigail Reynolds – Morning Light (a modern Persuasion) and Mr. Darcy’s Obsession (P&P Regency)
Jack Caldwell – The Companion of His Future Life (P&P Regency)
Maria Grace – Remember the Past and Snowbound at Hartfield (both P&P Regency)
Marilyn Brant – Coming Home (a contemporary Persuasion duet) and “When Life Imitates Art” (a modern short story included in the Romance Writers of America anthology called Second Chances)
Melanie Burt Stanford – Sway (a modern Persuasion)
Nicole Clarkson – These Dreams (modern) and The Courtship of Edward Gardiner (Regency P&P related)
Shannon Winslow – The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (an alternate history about Jane Austen) and Leap of Hope (a modern Persuasion)