The 5 Love Languages and the novels of Jane Austen

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The 5 love languages seem a rather modern phenomenon, as they’ve become all the rage in the 90s with the publication of the homonymous book in 1995. However, the behaviours and tendencies in it seem to be something that has been with humanity for as long as humanity has been.
The readers of this blog, or even just those who took part to Love Blog before, know that I am a big fan of Jane Austen, and so it will come as no surprise how I can find these love languages in the ways the characters behave towards each other. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

Words of affirmation
The most obvious choice for words of affirmation would be Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, even though the plot of the novel revolves around something that was not spoken quite as plainly as it should have. She clearly loves others through words, and in return it’s through words that she most hurts those that love her.
Among the gentlemen, my words of affirmation pick would be Captain Wentworth, not as much because he declares his love in one of the most beautiful love letters in the history of literature, but because of his apparent need for words of affirmation throughout the novel, brought to life by his asking to Anne whether she would have replied to a letter had he written when he was made captain.

Acts of Service
The archetype of the acts of service is, obviously, saviour-of-reckless-Bennet-sisters Mr Darcy. He may have made a lot of mistakes with words, but he won back our proud heroine Elizabeth by doing something that she was never meant to know about (as if Lydia could keep her mouth shut! But I don’t think he’s cunning enough to have done it on purpose knowing she would speak…). So was Colonel Brandon, who is a character very similar to Darcy, and in a way I think he is what Darcy would have become in his life circumstance. Most of the gentlemen in the novels would, at some point or another, have done acts of services to prove love, and that may have been breeding more than disposition for most of them.  Acts of service is not, however, the domain of the men alone. It is also, in my opinion, the love language of Elinor Dashwood, the sensible and proper older sister of romantic heroine Marianne. Who but someone who wills the good of the other at her own expenses would have become the confidante to Miss Steele?

In the context of Georgian society, gifts and acts of service may appear rather similar, but the most obvious character whose love language is gifts is Emma Woodhouse. This is evidenced when she uses gifts to earn the forgiveness of the Bates’ family after her insult at Box Hill. Among the gentlemen, the most likely person whose love language is gifts is Henry Crawford. In a way, gift-giving is a less demanding way of showing love than the selfless acts of service that are so dear to the Austen heroes, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that it may be the language of one of her anti-heroes (in fact, it is common to all of them). In the case of the other anti-heroes, though, they hide a duplicitous intent, and are in a way showing affections that may not be truly there, except in the case of Frank Churchill, whose gifts allowed him to say things he couldn’t speak. The reason I have picked Henry for this is that the only character he probably cares about with genuine affection, that is his sister, is the original recipient of the necklace that would end up on Fanny’s neck at the time when he seems to be genuinely taken with her, even though he seems incapable of any real deep feelings. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the necklace is mirrored by a token of affection from his main rival, Edmund, although he always strikes me as a quality time kind of person.

Quality time
In the highly chaperoned and regimented society of the Regency, it is hard for people to express love in this way unless they are married, however Northanger Abbey is definitely written of two characters that have this love language. Henry Tilney does not become attached to Catherine Morland for a good while in the novel, but is generous with his time and it’s through this time spent with her that he comes to have feeling for her. Conversely, Catherine’s coming to maturity is seen in her leaving behind her fantasy world nurtured by reading too many fantasy novels and becoming able to give her undivided attention to people as they are, in the here and now. Another character who shows a propensity for quality time as a love language is, predictably, George Knightley.

Physical Touch
Physical touch isn’t something that appears so obvious in Jane Austen’s novels as it does in our hypersexualised time, but there are still clear signs that physical proximity and intimacy have played a part in these romances. Lydia Bennet, Maria Bertram, Mary Crawford and Isabella Thorpe are the most likely candidates for people susceptible to feeling loved this way, as well as using touch to their advantage in flirting. It is also, I believe, Frank Churchill’s true love language, repressed due to circumstances. All the anti-heroes appear to have used it for their own ends. On a more respectable level it is also, probably, the love language of Jane Bennet and Mr Bingley, with the balls and the illnesses that drive forward their storyline.

This blog post is part of the #LoveBlog2019 series on the topic of the 5 love languages.

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Meet your hosts

Brita of Belle Brita

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Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.




Charlene of Enduring All Things

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Charlene is a 20 something wife and fur-mama living in Portland, Oregon. She’s a follower of Christ, watcher of SciFi, reader of fantasy, singer of show tunes, and lover of her husband! She uses her blog, Enduring All Things to help couples build a marriage that will endure whatever comes their way.



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    1. I think P&P is in many way the best novel because it’s where her differences compared to other female authors of the time, and the peculiarity of her writing as a woman compared to male novelists, come through the most. The other stuff is amazing but you have done your duty to the classics, reading the whole of her work is a thing for those who are obsessed with the 18th century like me.

  1. So… I haven’t actually read any Jane Austen novels. I have seen the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, which is much better than the subsequent Hollywood version.

    Since I haven’t read the books, I have a question about Physical Touch. Do any of the characters show physical affection in their families? I agree that in books about courtship as opposed to marriage, there wouldn’t be much Physical Touch included. I’ve just noticed in my own family and in Dan’s family the importance of familial physical affection. My mom never took the quiz herself, but her love language was definitely Physical Touch! We always joked about how “needy” she was because she wanted so many hugs and cuddles every day. 🙂

    I love the way you’ve analyzed the characters with their love languages. I might need to do this for my own favorite books!

    1. I can’t think of any specific quotes that would make it obvious at the moment but given the etiquette of the time families that were close like the Bennetts would have very much resembled the modernised version of the film adaptations even at the time. I think the prohibition on touching strangers in the etiquette implies that it was seen far more intimate than we do nowadays. Then there is a possible allusion to the then secret engagement in Emma which is indeed about physical touch in courtship when the chaperone is asleep on the job, they really are novels of the unsaid rather than the said.

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