When films based on real people are released, questions always arise about the fact and truth behind the drama on the screen. Becoming Jane is no exception. The movie, which was released this week, is giving us a twist on Jane Austen. Instead of being treated to the millionth adaptation, we're getting a look into an imagined version of what might have happened in her own life. Skimming reviews, it seems that the film is a run-of-the-mill romance that you might enjoy or find predictable. But what of the movie's accuracy?Deirdre Lynch, who leads courses on Austen, has written a piece for Slate diving into that question, although she poses it as: "Why are we so obsessed with Jane Austen's love life?" The film has expanded from one chapter in Jon Spence's biography of the writer called Becoming Jane Austen. As Lynch describes, the biographer did claim that Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) was the love of Austen's (Anne Hathaway) life, but never alludes to a canceled marriage or life-long presence in his and his future family's life. Spence drew his claim from only a few letters and some hints in family records, and other scholars aren't so sure that this means the two were a couple.
The article outlines how Austen's work has, more than once, become fodder for her personal life. But that seems pretty sad and reductive. Whether you're a fan of period romances or not, it's hard to refute her success, so why can't she have the ability to create rich, fictional worlds without having a specific boyfriend or almost-husband? As Lynch says: "We can't bear to think that her wisdom was not based on experience."