I love Jane Austen books. I have read all of them. Some I like better than others, some I identify much more with.
There are some common themes that run through all of her books.
Perhaps the most over-arching theme is,
Do not settle.
Think about it. All of the heroines had an opportunity to settle for someone else. Some other guy. Many of the girls refused to settle even when their families pressured them to or when they thought that no one else would never want to marry them. Not being married especially for their status in life and wealth would have been detrimental for all of them.
Elizabeth could have settled for Mr. Collins. He was the only man to show interest in her. Her mother wanted her to marry him, she would have been relatively comfortable socially and financially.
Only Elizabeth refused to settle. She refused to marry someone she did not love. She also refused to marry someone who was not right for her just for the sake of having someone.
Emma, was determined not to settle. In fact she was planning on never marrying. Then Mr. Elton asks her to marry him and she promptly rejects him. However when Frank Churchill starts paying attention to her she really enjoys it. Perhaps more than she wants to admit. Even though she knows he is not right for her she entertains him and his attentions. However through this, Emma does realize that there is only one man she loves. She also realizes that she is willing to give up what she is comfortable with for him. Marrying Knightly means change but she knows with him she will be happiest. She refuses to settle for mediocre and for just friendship. Knightly also chose not to settle for just friendship.
Elinor in Sense and Sensibility learns that the one she loves is betrothed to another women. She knows this for a long time and this is very difficult for her. However her love remains true and eventually after much waiting she is able to marry the one she loves. The important thing is she never settled for good enough in the meantime.
Also not by Jane Austen but one of the best books of all time, Anne of Green Gables shows this as well.
After Anne convinces Gilbert that he will never have a chance with her, he ends up engaged. Only he knows it is not the real thing so he breaks it off with her. He chooses not to settle.
Meanwhile Anne had met the man of her dreams. He is her ideal, tall, dark and handsome; as well as incredibly wealthy. However when he asks her to marry him, Anne is hit with the sudden realization that she cannot. Although he is the man of her ideals she does not really love him. Even though at that point, Anne thinks Gilbert is taken she knows she would rather be alone than settle.
This concept is still so relevant today and indeed I think it will be a timeless truth. Do not settle for anything less than love and hold out for the person you are meant to be with. Like with Emma and Anne, they both learned that sometimes true love does not look like they imagined it would. Indeed that would be true for Elizabeth as well. Do not write someone off because of that but in the end never settle.
This doesn’t just apply to love. It applies to work. It applies to looking for what you really want to do with your life. Don’t settle.