Dream And Reality An Irreconcilable Conflict English Literature Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Jane Austen is an extraordinary English novelist, specializing in romantic fiction. For more than 200 years, Jane Austen's realism and biting social commentary have earned her historical importance as a writer among scholars and critics. Pride and Prejudice is her most successful work. The heroine, Elizabeth, becomes one of the most charming female literary figures. With the related renown, Austen gets more and more attention and finally she also becomes a new favorite of Hollywood screen. Then, more comments and criticism about Jane Austen and her works follow naturally. Among these, there is the comparison between Jane Austen and Elizabeth. Beyond the high degree of similarities, an abrupt difference appears between these two images. It is an entirely different ending. In this paper, there will be further comparison among Jane Austen, Elizabeth and the silver-screen Jane Austen. Their similarities and differences will be given a further analysis. Their cause will be discussed. A Q Spirit will also be applied for an explanation leading readers witness the author's inner irreconcilable conflict between dream and reality and feel the author's pains. The thesis concludes that Jane Austen is a happy dreamer but a desperate struggler in reality.

Key Words¼š Jane Austen; Elizabeth; Silver-screen Jane, dream and reality, A Q Spirit


Writers, especially the successful writers are the thinkers of the human history and society, such as Jane Austen. Their woks are the concrete representation of their persistent thinking. So when reading Austen's works and feeling what the writers had in mind, the readers can touch one of the centralized parts of the social psychology.

Jane Austen is one of the most outstanding novelists in history. She has written many famous books, especially Pride and Prejudice. The portrayal of Elizabeth, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is very successful. She gains the heart of countless readers all over the world.

The well-known literary critic, Edmund Wilson said, in the past century, there were several revolutions in English literature and the changing literary tastes caused great impacts on the reputations of almost every writer, but not Shakespeare and Jane Austen (Edmund Wilson, qtd. in 白敏&唐玲 2002).

Her excellent works also gain Jane Austen immortal fame, which brings Austen to the public. In 2008, Austen's biography movie, Becoming Jane was released.

When Jane Austen and Elisabeth are being mentioned together, it is easy to encourage people to make series of comparisons. The similarities between Jane Austen and Elizabeth can be seen anywhere. The joining of Jane in the movie enriches the comparison.

In this paper, based on the researches which have been made, the further comparison will be made. A few questions will be asked. What makes this difference between Austen and Elizabeth? What is the author's purpose? About the comparison of Jane Austen and Jane in movie, Becoming Jane, the purposive distortion of the Jane exists: the rational Jane Austen loses her mind and commits a barren-ending elopement. What inspires this distortion?

Literature Review

Before answering the questions above, some overview on the research about Jane Austen are needed.

2.1 Studies on Jane Austen Abroad

Before Austen died, her works brought her very little personal renown because they were published anonymously though they were very popular at that time. Gradually Austen was praised for its realism and dramatic qualities of her narrative. Then she was ranked by some critic with Shakespeare and Carvantes, Hernry Fielding. She was called one of "the fine painters of life" (Southam, 1986). Later some of memoir about Jane Austen written by her relatives was published. All these call up a rising tide of public interest that exceeds her "Intrinsic merit and interest" (Southam, 1986). These changes about Austen's literature status brought her many fans called "Janeites". After the first books of criticism on Jane Austen were published in the last quarter of the 19th century, more criticism followed. As time moves on, several important works make Austen's novels a focus of academic study. Generally regarded as the starting point for the serious academic approach to Jane Austen, the Oxford Shakespearean scholar A. C.Bradley is the weighted milestone. After his contribution to Jane's research, there are more and more studies about her writing style, her narrative art, irony, realism and satire and so on. Since World War Two, the feminism theory and the postcolonial theory are being used in the research of Jane Austen. She is compared to the widely accepted feminist Wollstonecraft and it is said that she should be given the feminist title, too (Kirkham, 1983). Now, the academic appreciation of Austen has been widened than ever before.

Off the mainstream, in 2004, Kellye M. Nye wrote an essay to point out that Austen is using the fairy tale plot structure to express her feminism and said that Elizabeth was like the a princess waiting to be rescued (Kellye M. Nye, 2004) .

With such a definition, Austen is definitely not the centre of Kellye's research. So even the fairy-tale ending has been mentioned, but no comparison has been made. In this essay, in this analysis, Kellye neglects Austen's personal feeling but heads to the feminist conclusion.

2.2 Studies on Jane Austen in China

Jane Austen is also very popular in China because of her novels, as a marvelous novelist, as a feminist. Recently, under the push of the Hollywood, both her works and her personal anecdotes have been a hot topic.

Most of the time, when Austen's significance is discussed by the critics, her attitude towards marriage is always a mainstream topic. For example, Wen Hulin and Yang Guiqin said, "Pride and Prejudice has been interpreted as a work praising those women who fought for a happy marriage¼ˆæ¸©è™Žæž- & 杨桂琴, 2006¼‰." Here, Austen has been classified as a feminist.

The comparison between Jane Austen and Elizabeth has been made in quite a lot researches. Once Bai Min and Tang Ling list the similarities between them from various aspects and they claimed, Elizabeth is Austen's self-portrait¼ˆç™½æ• & 唐玲, 2002¼‰. In Ye Xiaolin's research, she finds out Austen's rationalism and idealism. In her understanding , the author's Cinderella complex is because Austen is taking a pity on her heroine and then gives them a happy ending (叶晓琳, 2002) .

The limitation is here. When the researchers are talking about the author, their visions will be locked by the author. When they discuss something else, their visions are beyond the author.

Dose the integration of these two perspectives mean that Jane Austen is grieving for herself?

After the overview, most of the critics about Austen are like knives, cutting her work or her life into pieces for the sake of finding the skills she applied in her novels. The researches are like hoes that are always trying to dig out what is far away from the author herself but have connection to the literary significance that can reflect the history and society. In all, all the reaches are about admiration and critics.

No thoughtful and warm understanding is for the writer. Moreover, the domestic and abroad researches do not cover this topic and no answers for those questions are putting forward above.

In consideration about this, it is time for the readers to come back and repay the necessary attention to the inside of the author. It means reading with sympathy, because the author is the one who write the book. Her pain with joy and wishes has been included.

When the reading has been finished and the knowledge about Jane Austen is adequate and the all-sided comparison has been developed, the writer is still a part of what the readers are thinking about, more will be seen.


In reality, Jane Austen has "great sweetness of manners", "kind, sympathizing, and amazing". "Her figure was rather tall and slender, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation" (James-Edward Austen, 1869).

To a degree, both Jane in film Becoming Jane, acted by Anne Hathaway and the Heroine, Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, are sharing most of the characteristics of the novelist.

3.1 Jane Austen and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen was born in a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of English gentry. She is the second daughter of the family and was raised happily and enjoyed her pleasant middle class life. Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is also from a middle class family of a little village of the southern England. Before the showing up of Mr. Darcy, she is just like her other sisters to go to balls and hangout with friends, having a carefree life (Jane Austen, 1946¼‰.

Austen's father, George Austen, served as the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon, Hampshire. He is well-educated and has a very good taste on literature. During Austen's home tutoring time, her father has great influence on her and she respects her father very much. Mr. Bennet is also a thoughtful person who spends most of his spare time in his study and watches what is happening in his family through his glass quietly unless emergence. Here Elizabeth is his favorite daughter. About her mother, Cassandra is a common mother just like other mothers at that time. We can see similarities between her and Mrs Bennet, so that Austen's feeling to her mother is like Elizabeth to Mrs Bennet, complicate. They both love their mothers but do not accept their old value.

Cassandra Elizabeth, Austen's only sister, was her closest friend and confidante throughout her whole life. Neither of these two sisters gets married. Today, most information about Jane Austen, it is from the letters they wrote to each other and Cassandra also destroy some she thought it is impropriate to show in the public. In the novel, Jane and Elizabeth have the most pleasant relationship that can make every other sisters envy. They trust each other, and share very thing with each other, even the most secret thought, such as only Elizabeth can Jane tell how much she admired Mr. Bingrey. Jane is also the first one to be acknowledged of Elizabeth's relationship with Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth's first refusal to Darcy's proposal is also because of her intention to protect her sister.

What is more, Jane Austen and Elizabeth share the same value and the same view of marriage. Both of them were born in the late 18th century, the time followed Rousseau's thinking model that woman were emotional creatures who need to be kept by man:

The education of woman should always be relative to men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them; to educate when young, to take care of us when grown up, to advise, to control, to render our lives easy and agreeable- these are the duties of women at all times and what they should be taught in their infancy…(Rousseau, qtd. in Dhatwalia, 1988)

At that time, woman had thought should "be looked upon as deficient in intellect and reason, given over to passion and caprice" (Brophy, 1991), such as Charlotte and Kitty.

Both Austen and Elizabeth did it in the opposite way. Both of them show us superexcellent sense. Austen did not have her life as she was supposed to have: giving up herself to the pressure of life and giving up her talent to find a rich and noble husband to support her life. She stick to her own principle and delicate her life to write. This is what makes Austen an extraordinary woman. About Elizabeth, her rational mind is oblivious in the novel: she is decisive, calm and strong. When she is facing the fate that there will be no place for her to live when her father pass away, she do not surrender to a marriage without love, and finally the misunderstanding between her and Darcy vanishes away and get a happy ending.

3.2 Jane Austen's Painful Cinderella Complex

Through the comparison, Elizabeth is almost Austen's self-portrait and Austen herself also said, pride and Prejudice was her favorite one. But in the novel, Elizabeth is no longer Jane Austen, because as the story develops, Elizabeth is changed into Cinderella step by step. In the end, she gets a fairy tale ending.

Austen dose not involve in any marriage during her whole life. It does not mean that she had never thought about marriage. In a contrary direction, she thought about the essence of the marriage all the time, because most of her works are talking about the love affairs of the young ladies and their attitudes about marriage and their choices and the matched life basing on their choice. Because of the intensive thinking of the marriage of her time, it makes her remain single.

No doubt, Austen has a very good understanding about the limitation for the woman at her time. They do not have alternative. As well-educated and witted as Austen, she was trapped here. Though she was charming and may have at least one love affair and receive at least one proposal (Le Faye, 2005). She was so witted, maybe she was too witted, and was always purchasing after the idealism, especially the marriage. In her mind, love and a good fortune are both necessary to a happy marriage, if she can have them both at the same time that she would rather to be alone to the end of her life. Austen never chooses to compromise to the reality. This passage foreshadows her pain.

Actually, if Austen is well-prepared for the disappointment life throws at her, things may become easier. But on one hand, she refused the imperfect marriage, on the other hand, she was keeping dreaming. This consciousness is hiding in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth without marriage is almost the novelist herself. But following the fairy tale plot structure, there is a Mr. Darcy for Elizabeth. What is more, in her other works, there is always a Mr. Right for her heroine. But no prince comes to the real Jane.

Writing and off-writing, to Austen, it is like a sweet dream and the harsh reality. At this point, a bold guess can be made: she is trying to get the comfort from the familiar prince-and-princess ending falling on the fictitious Jane Austen, Elizabeth. It is like pain-killer to her pain caused by the real life. Or morphine is more appropriate.

According to the comparison, besides the glory of one of the most outstanding novelist, Austen is still a common woman carrying the painful Cinderella complex. With so many similarities between Jane Austen and Elizabeth, the different endings do not tell how happy and how peaceful the author is, but indicate what a pain is burying inside her heart.

Considering the social circumstance, Jane Austen has minor chance to get what she is dreaming about at her time. It is prophetic. And her painful yearning in her heart is voiceless.

At this point the fiercely conflict between dream and reality is being shown.

3.3 Jane Austen and Jane in Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane released in 2007 is a film based on Jon Spence's biography of Austen, Becoming Jane Austen. Jane Austen is performed by the famous Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway.

In the movie, it is supposed to have Jane Austen's life reappeared. Although Hathaway is praised for her excellent performance as Jane Austen, she is definitely not the "Jane".


The director Julian Jarrold was focusing on the unproven relationship between Jane Austen and Thomas Langlois Lefroy. Moreover, there are big differences between this silver-screen Jane and the real Jane.

About Jane in movie, don't mention that the actress Hathaway has no presence of the real Jane thought she is a stunning beauty with big eyes and dazzling smiles. Hathaway shows the audience the beauty of the modern time. But about Jane, she is supposed to have a kind of classic elegance. What is more unbelievable is that the shiver-screen Jane is even bold enough to plan an elopement with a penniless student of law who she fell in love deeply with.

It is true that the screenplay was inspired by the really event of Jane Austen's life. But as what has been known that Jane Austen was well-educated even though most of her knowledge did not gain in the traditional way, from the school, but from the home-tutoring, from her fathers and brothers and a considerable quantity of books she had read. She grew up to be a thoughtful and intellectual lady who is fond of and good at writing. Jane Austen did get married, but no one doubt that she is not a rational being. Once Christopher Gillie said, "Jane Austen was equally to laugh at those who thought it right to live entirely by their emotion (Christopher Gillie, 2005: P30)."

Here a conclusion can be reached. According to Jane's real characters, marriage dose not mean the act of ungoverned passion but a complex engagement between the marrying couple and the contemporary circumstances. This opinion can be found in Pride and Prejudice. For example, the marriage between Lydia and Wickham is because of the ungoverned passion and Charlotte marries William Collins under the pressure of the contemporary circumstances. Jane Austen used Elizabeth's name to express herself that she disdains to do be one of them.

In accordance with all above, having such a strong sensibility, it is impossible for the real Jane to commit an elopement with any guy.

So Becoming Jane can only be defined as a semi-fictional biography of the esteemed author, even it incorporates people and events from Austen's life.

3.4 Earthlings' Painful Cinderella Complex

Studying about the comparison, the question "why" jumps out again.

Why "Jane" in Becoming Jane is not Jane? Is it the director's design or by accident?

At this point the nature of movies should be taken in consideration. Movies are something commercial. Because Jane Austen is so famous and a lot of aspects of hers are unknown, so that it gives the enough space for the Hollywood to create a NEW Jane, who is entertaining to the "Janeites".

People have the Cinderella complex, too. That is why screen romance always has its unshaken market. People love the novels written by Jane Austen and it stimulates the equaled interest in the novelist's personal life, too.

Here a stereotype is inserted in people's mind that an extraordinary woman like Austen, her life should fill with uncommon stories. Audiences are looking forward dramatic comedy. Unfortunately, Austen's life story seems having no connection with comedy. Once comedy is out of the plan, tragedy is brought forward. A conventional pattern elopement can contribute the essential element of a romance tragedy.

A rational mind is obviously not good for the expected entertainment, so the "Jane" can not be Jane again. She is designed lose her mind and commit an elopement with a man and they have to return with their empty hand. Now the tragedy plot is completed.

This movie is successful. The statistic from two of most popular movie websites in China shows: on MTIME, its score hits the high point 8.2 and its mark is also as high as 8.0 on Douban in 2010.

The successes of this movie, it also reveals the Cinderella's complex of Earlling. People are taking the advantages of the non-existed romance to comfort them, just as a temporary break from ordinary life.

Jane Austen and A Q Spirit

In the movie, Becoming Jane is a silver-screen tragic romance which is created for the commercial purpose. It is incredible story, but Jane's life is still an invisible tragedy to herself. The paradox, which can be seen in the comparison between Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and Jane's real life, is an indication of the inner tragedy of Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is the way Jane Austen applied to externalize her ideal life and marriage.

Elizabeth inherits almost all characteristics of the author. Author's real life is the original of Pride and Prejudice. The inspiration of the novel is from the daily life and the society which Jane was very familiar with. Elizabeth is like a mirror. She reflects the whole ideology of her creator.

But in the end of the story, the heroine got everything what Jane Austen dreamed of but failed. For example, it is very easy to find out that Mr. Darcy is the ideal combination of Lefroy with intelligence and the nephew of Lady Gresham with fortune.

Usually, novel is a very good way for a writer to take to tell others her thoughts, especially the dreams which they can't have them come true in reality. To Austen. Elizabeth is standing for her ideal life model.

It is the comparison that shows readers the novelist's pains. In reality, Jane was not happy.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel which Austen poured in all her personal understanding of woman's life at that time. This book is not only brilliantly reproduction of her lifetime but also her unreachable dream. It is a kind of consolation. What Austen can't have, she can create one heroine, who has her face and character, to get it. It is a moral victory, also known as A Q Spirit in China ¼ˆéª†å†¬é’, 2002¼‰.

In the novel, Austen thinks, a young lady as wise and pretty as Elizabeth deserves a perfect marriage. From another angle to observe, she thinks, she deserves a happy ending, too.

This fantasy or illusion is becoming a self torture as time goes by.

It could be a cause, leading Jane Austen to die young not only of the disease. But this is also what nourishes her to become a famous novelist and cements her enormous fame, so that nowadays the world can enjoy her humor and irony. It is the luck of literatus but the Austen's pain.

5. Conclusion

Now, the question at the beginning can be answered.

It is Austen's expectation for her own life drives her to design a perfect ending, which is so different with hers, to her self-portrait, Elizabeth. She makes it on purpose unconsciously as a self-consolation. Austen is a happy dreamer but a desperate struggler in reality. So do the audience. That is why Jane in Becoming Jane is not 100% of real Jane Austen. The distortion is made to cater for the needs and tastes of audience, who have the same Cinderella complex.

Jane Austen may have the awareness of feminism or may not, but her life and her masterpieces, especially Pride and Prejudice, as a unity, it introduces a strong feeling in that field: the females' psychological struggle about Victorian traditional marriage value. It points directly to the conflict of the dream and the reality inside the writer.

When one novel is read, three layers should be expected. The first layer is the novel itself, like skin. The second layer is the author, like flesh and blood. The final layer is the social and cultural significance of the novel, like bones.

In the traditional way of Literary Appreciation, critics prefer to surgeon way. Examine the skin, and then they cut to see the shape of the bones. The author is always tolerating a various degrees of indifference.

A mild Chinese-pysical-therapist reading way should be promoted. To touch the skin, the shape of the bones can also be seen if the flesh and blood can be carefully felt how it wraps the bones.

If the readers pay more attention to the Author, it is not very difficult to find out, sometimes the beautiful and pleasant prince and princess story in the books do not indicate the satisfaction of the real life. On the contrary, the story in itself is like a bright sun which drops a hint of the dark shadow created by golden sunshine. The brighter the sunshine it is, the thicker darkness the shadow may have.

If it is true that "to see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower",

The author herself must be the "grain of sand" or the "wild flower". (William Blake, 1995)