Jane’s Highlights, by Kirstin Odegaard

Jane’s Highlights, by Kirstin Odegaard

Sometimes, when I’m reading Jane Austen—or any great book—I’m struck by a stand out line that I don’t want to forget.  During my school days, I was on the hunt for those lines, but now that I don’t have to produce an essay after I read something, I don’t find those unforgettable lines as often.  This is possibly because my current reading choices are about as deep as that swiftly spreading milk puddle I have to clean up as punishment for stealing a moment to read.  (Gaaaah!  It’s dripping through the table crack!  But, no, Mommy’s not mad.)  When I do hit upon those great lines, I grab my highlighter to mark them, and it’s just like my school days, except that now my Kindle’s a little harder to read with those yellow lines running across it.  In the spirit of old school highlighting, here are my favorite quotes from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.

  1. “Saved as we all are, by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments.”

-From Persuasion, when Anne’s comparing herself to the Musgrove sisters

This is one of my all time favorite Austen quotes.  I love the acknowledgement that we all feel superior to, well, everyone, and I love the add on that this is a good thing because it prevents destructive feelings of jealousy.  Now we can all say with confidence, “I think I’m better than everyone in the world, but that’s not conceit.  That’s healthy self-confidence.”  Thanks for that, Jane.


  1. “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

-Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice

Who hasn’t fallen in love with this line?  About every six months, my husband and I have the same conversation.  I say, “Why don’t you ever say that to me?  I’d allow it!”  Then he says, “Did Elizabeth allow it?”  And I go quiet.  Because she didn’t.  But then she toured Darcy’s estate and extensive grounds and gained a better understanding of what 10,000 pounds a year means, and she decided to go ahead and let him drone on about how great she is.  No judgments here, Elizabeth.

  1. “I burn for you.”

Oops.  How did that one slip in here?  This used to be the most romantic quote ever.  Remember how the duke (I think that’s his name in real life?) ruined it by claiming he never actually said it, and we all had to cancel our Netflix subscriptions in protest?  And then we all Googled it and realized he was right, which was even more obnoxious of him.

  1. “Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.”

-Elizabeth to Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice

Whenever Austen starts talking about rational creatures, you know she’s striking a quiet chord for women’s rights.  This one is particularly interesting because Elizabeth is saying that she won’t change her mind, but after Darcy’s first proposal, she does.  Does that undermine this quote?  Or is a rational woman allowed to change her mind?

Perhaps the context matters, since Mr. Collins willfully dismisses Elizabeth’s answer when she is simply asking for her “no” to be taken seriously (which, to be fair, Darcy does).

Or maybe this isn’t a Socratic circle I’m leading in my English class, and we should just pop ahead to the next quote.  But I’ll expect your 500 word analysis in the comments section.

  1. “I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.”

-Mrs. Croft to Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, when she is arguing that women can be perfectly comfortable on Navy ships

Another lovely feminist quote!  But, full disclosure: This quote worries me because I suspect I’m one of those fine ladies who’d hate riding on an Austen-era Navy boat.  I’m not trying to be high maintenance, but rats and scurvy aren’t really my thing.

  1. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

-Opening line of Pride and Prejudice

As much as I try to get on board with “Call me Ishmael,” the opening to Pride and Prejudice is my favorite first line to a novel.  Did Austen know when she wrote this line how incredible it was?  Did she say, “Hey, Cassandra, get in here and look at what just came out of my quill pen!”?  And did Cassandra say, “Jane, that’s genius,” and tweet it to all of her friends?  We can’t know because our Twitter records only go back to 2006, but still I wonder.

  1. “One man’s ways may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.”

-Admiral Croft to Anne in Persuasion

I like how this captures a complex idea in such a pithy way, and I think it matches up well with the first quote on this list.  Isn’t it funny that Persuasion contains these lovely quotes defending selfishness when Anne’s character is so completely devoted to selflessness? What is Austen trying to say there?  I’m not sure, but I’m grabbing my highlighter to mark that one on my Kindle.  If I can find space left on the screen.

What did I miss?  Do you have favorite, highlight worthy quotes from any of Austen’s books?  Or, if you don’t want to go flipping through your books (because it’s not an English class, Kirstin), just tell me your favorite scenes.


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December 31, 2021 7:08 PM

I ardently admire and love your blog posts. 🙂

December 11, 2021 4:50 PM

My favorite scene is Captain Wentworth’s letter.

December 6, 2021 5:25 PM

I can’t hand in my 500 word analysis as Jeanne’s dog ate it! I’m also rubbish at thinking of quotes as I get muddled between actual books, adaptations and JAFF, but I’m happy with the ones you chose and I’m sure I would have chosen the same ones! At least the ones from P&P anyway!

Susan Heim
December 5, 2021 4:29 PM

“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
December 3, 2021 7:27 PM

I like the opening of P+P and especially the ardently line from Mr Darcy! Who wouldn’t want a man to say that to them!?

Tom Odegaard
Tom Odegaard
December 3, 2021 2:47 PM

My favorite first lines are from another author, un-named, that went (forgive any mistakes: it’s been a long, long time) something like “. . . Scmid, who always wore orange and never, never wore red.”

And what’s wrong with “It was a dark and stormy night.”? (Oh, wait . . .)
But good choices, Kirstin. I especially liked #5.

Riana Everly
December 3, 2021 2:02 PM

500 words? Yikes! I think I used up all my words during NaNoWriMo.
But I definitely approve of your selections.
Some of my favourite lines come from Mansfield Park, which is ironically my least favourite of her novels. Still, Mary Crawford is a treasure trove of witty comments.
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
I mean, don’t we all sort-of agree, deep down?

Riana Everly
December 3, 2021 3:06 PM

I agree. I think this was a missed opportunity for both of them.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
December 3, 2021 10:53 AM

I can’t turn in my 500-word analysis today… my dog ate it. LOL! This was amazing. I fell in love with Austen years ago. I’m still learning new things about what she said, what she implied, and what meaning she had behind her word choices. Man, she was deep. I love reading y’all’s analysis of her work. I loved the quotes you chose. Many are my favorites, also. Thanks for this post. Blessing for the Holiday Season in the manner in which you celebrate.

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