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At the beginning, with a view to giving a direction to our approach taken, it is pertinent to define the key words of this essay Viz., Feminist Theory, Marital Concord and Discourse in Societal relationship .
Feminist Theory- It is the existence of feminism in theoretical or philosophical discourse; it aims to understand the nature of gender inequality; it examines the social role of women. While generally a critique of social relations, much of Feminist Theory also focuses on analysing gender inequality and the promotion of women rights, interests and issues.
Marital Concord- is the existence of the harmonious relationship between husband and wife. This harmonious relationship does not mean that the couple is always on very good terms, nor does it mean that the couple are living happily always, it means that the couple are fairly comfortable with each other. They are living together accepting and discounting the shortcomings of each other.
A Discourse in Societal Relationship- indicates that the write-up is a mirror of the society. It means that a full scale interaction of different people is mentioned lucidly as also the good, the bad and the indifferent sides of the society is clearly brought out as it exists in real life situation.
With the above view point, the writings of Jane Austen is analysed and evaluated with major inspiration drawn from 'Pride and Prejudice'
Jane Austen as a Social Narrator:
Jane Austen, the most prominent of the women novelists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, stands as a unique figure in the history of the English novel, for no other novelist before or after her, up to Dickens and Thackeray, makes the novel so perfect artistically as she does. With her techniques of narrating the story from the central consciousness of a character inside the story, she weaves the plots of her novels in a compact and organic form as different from the loose and picaresque plot which remained in vogue up to the early Victorian period.
More than half her life was spent in the Steventon parsonage, where she saw and knew closely the people of different strata of the gentry class in and around the village -the large landed proprietor, the small proprietor and the clergyman, occasionally the military or naval officer, the retired tradesman, the village apothecary and the independent yeoman. These comprise the material of her novels. Austen calls it "human nature in the midland countries." If the range of her characters was limited, she had good opportunities of studying them minutely.
Though a keen observer of the vulgarity, affectation, hypocrisy and foibles of people around her, Jane Austen made use of such studies only as materials for her novels. From Jane Austen's life and character we can easily expect that she had a genial, kindly and moral view of life. There are no hidden meanings or philosophy in her novels. Her realism makes her think it foolish to worry about evils one cannot prevent.
She is profoundly moral. A.C. Bradley refers to this when he remarks: There are two great distinct strains in Jane Austen. She is a moralist and a humorist. These strains are often blended or even completely fused but still they may be distinguished." She is as impersonal and objective as Shakespeare, though morality permeates all her novels.
In Jane's view one should be sincere, unselfish and disinterested. She satirises meanness in every form, whether it results from selfish motives as in the case of Miss Caroline, or wickedness as in the case of Wickham, or the arrogance of high status as in the case of Lady Catherine.
Jane Austen's moral vision is correlated with good conduct and manners, i.e.., good taste. Though not a critic of society, she is certainly a critic of man's conduct, how one lives is as important as what one lives for. To be completely satisfactory as a human being one should not only be good and sensible, but also well-mannered and cultivated. Whenever a person deviates from the triple standard of sense, virtue and taste, he falls a victim to Jane's irony and ridicule.
Jane Austen portrays characters from very ordinary life. Her men do not have any soaring ambitions. Her women quietly accept their social position and engage themselves exclusively in matrimonial pursuits. In her novels there are no great villains, no great saints, no eccentric characters and no cynics. Her characters have a very even tenor of life, spending their time in balls and dinners, walks, playing cards and visiting friends. In her world no startling events take place, no adventures, and no mystery. The greatest villainy that ever disrupts the evenness of a Jane Austen novel is elopement.
In spite of the smallness of her canvas, she was usually concerned with three or four families in a country village. Jane Austen has given us an astonishing variety of characters. Even in the delineation of her heroines her range is wide enough. Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price, Elinor Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland and Anne Elliot, are all eminently attractive young women who are carefully distinguished from one another. There is abundance of vitality in her character. In the skill of portraiture Macaulay compares her with William Shakespeare- her characters form a nice picture gallery. Her convas is narrow but there is a great variety. Jane Austen's greatest success appears in the portraits of her women characters, particularly her heroines. They were so real to her that she used to look for their portraits when she went to exhibitions and picture galleries. Jane Austen has succeeded much better than any other novelists in the portraits of her men too. They are, however, less complete than her women-characters.
Jane Austen never repeats her characters "In her six books, she never repeats a single character." says Lord David Cecil. "The snobbishness of the Rev Mr. Collins is unlike that of the Rev. Mr. Elton; Isabella and Lucy Steele are both calculating flirts but not the same sort of calculating flirts. Lord Macaulay also declares-
"Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings."
Jane Austen draws her characters from real life, they are so alive and real. They are mixtures of good and evil. Her virtuous characters have faults which are integral to their nature. Though her characters are so highly individualized, they have also a touch of the universal about them. Great artists always make their characters both individuals and representatives of a certain class. Thus Marianne becomes the representative of all romantic lovers while Wickham becomes the represents all pleasant looking but selfish and unprincipled flirts.
According to Charlotte Bronte"There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting" of life by Austen. Like a true artist Jane holds to the classical ideal, "nothing in excess; everything in its proper proportion." She, however, conceals the effort of her creative activity so well that her work seems absolutely spontaneous and natural, almost a free outburst. Her own conception of a perfect novel as given in Northanger Abbey is "a work in which the greatest powers of mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language."
While dealing with commonplace events of life, she goes on manipulating relationships among characters by giving twists to them in such a way as always keeps the reader in suspense. The story of the struggle of mutual attraction against mutual repulsion of Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, passes through such situations as keeps the readers eager to know the next development, till the end. The story of Pride and Prejudice, is narrated from the point of view of Elizabeth.
Jane Austen has portrayed a large variety of characters in Pride and Prejudice and each of them is perfectly differentiated from the others. Mr. Bennet is a country gentleman of moderate means. He has a sharp and penetrating intellect, prodigious humour and wit and enough commonsense. Soured by his ill-adjusted marriage, he, however, turns an odd "mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice". He pays no heed to his obligations as a husband, responsibilities as a father and seeks escape in his fondness for the country and for books. His only relationship with his wife and daughters is to sharpen his wit by teasing and laughing at them. Elizabeth, his
favourite daughter, feels sorry for his misused talents which, had they been rightly directed, would have at least preserved the respectability of his daughters even if they had failed to enlarge the mind of his wife.
In contrast to her husband, Mrs. Bennet is "a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain herself nervous. Her beauty and youth had helped her to secure a husband quite early in life, but her stupidity makes her forfeit his good opinion, confidence and affection forever. Her only aim in life is to get her daughters married somehow. She does not care if Mr. Collins is a fool, who hardly deserves to be the husband of Elizabeth. Her only wish is that Elizabeth should marry him at any cost. She employs vulgar and mean artifices to develop intimacy between Jane and Bigley. She pampers Lydia and encourages her to make the best of her time in the gay company of army officers. When Lydia elopes with Wickham she shuts herself in her room but the moment she learns about the settlement of her marriage with him, she is beside herself with joy.
Jane Austen as a Feminist
All of Jane Austen's novels are really stories of young women finding husbands, but this is just a surface view, or the simple story line; the total subject matter is much more than that. It is portrayal of the conventions of class- ridden society, and within the society the position of women who are confined to household and expected to remain there. Feminist critics have taken the novels of Jane Austen as evidence of a male dominated social conditioning that women had to undergo if they had to succeed in society - which means a prosperous marriage. In the process, feminists have argued that creative talents of women were suppressed and not allowed to express them; the male ego would not allow them to do so. To what extent it is true can be seen hereunder.
Jane Austen represents a 'feminization of English novel.' She writes as a woman and on themes of interest to women. But even there Jane Austen imposes certain limitations on herself. "We sit in the parlour with girls to whom one half of the human race are father, brothers, uncles, cousins and suitors, but never husbands." explains Magaret Kennedy "And in a virgin's life, only those experiences are selected which furnish material of comedy." As illustrations of the masculine and feminine methods of approaching the social life of the late eighteenth century, we have Fielding and Jane Austen, each of them essentially a painter of manners, concerned in the differences between town and country, satirical in treatment, and eschewing sentiment as far as possible. Although there is no reason why a woman should write about women and on themes that interest women yet Jane Austen did precisely that. Thus there is so much of dancing, card playing, visiting etc. in her novels. Even men are viewed from the stand point of women. Exclusive male sports or recreations such as hunting, smoking and male conservations are not to be found in her novels. In 'Pride and Prejudice' everything is looked at through Elizabeth's eyes.
Jane Austen is without doubt adapt in the art of characterization. She has given excellent male and female characters. But there is no doubt that her female characters are better drawn. She knows men through the eyes of women. Jane Austen painted very complex and innumerable female characters whereas the variety among male characters is limited. In all of Jane Austen's novels the heroines are witty, discerning, sensible and charming and the entire action of the novel revolves round them and is presented from their point of view. Her heroines are in love but are not great lovers. They are strangers to the great and noble heights of pure love. Her heroines embody Jane Austen's values of sense, taste and virtue; naturally she sets these values as standard for judging other characters.
All the heroines of all the novels of Austen are attractive and they have their views on love and marriage. The words in which they express themselves are not less eloquent. E.M Forster declared, "She knows the facts, but they are not her facts." All the heroines are guided by commonsense. None of Jane Austen's heroine marries entirely for love. The best example is the heroine of 'Persuasion' Anne Elliot, who, after falling deeply in love with Captain Wentworth breaks off her engagements because the interfering snob Lady Russell persuades her that it would be imprudent to marry a poor naval officer who might be killed in was. She wanted in vain and she comes to know how much she still loves Wentworth.
Emma herself claims in the novel Emma, "Without love, I am sure I should be a fool to change such a situation as mine. Fortune I do not want, employment I do not want, consequence I do not want, I believe few married women are half as much mistress of their husband's house as I am of Hartsfield and never, never could I expect to be so truly beloved and important, so always first and always right in any man's eyes as I am in my father's."
She also accepts that if there were any prospects of her becoming a poor old maid like Miss Bates, she would marry the next day.
Miss Jane Austen who had watched the effects of love in other, though we are not sure how far she had experienced the things herself, had views upon love and marriage which were well reflected and sensible in her own age.
Jane Austen represents feminization of the English novel. It is a typical woman's point of view that she projects in her novel. She draws her men not perhaps as they are, or as they appear to other men, but as they appear to women. Jane Austen's Darcy and Bingley, Knightly and Frank Churchill are seen through the eyes of her women, Elizabeth, Jane and Emma. Jane Austen's outlook is essentially different from that of a man, and her work, therefore, complementary and supplementary to the man's. The men never appear alone; they are always in the company of women. These persons are engaged in such activities as women can participate in balls, dinners, card playing or walks.
Jane Austen who belonged to this class and found the delight of her life in these social relationships has succeeded in giving us a very exact and realistic portrayal of the women to whom dancing, visiting and attending balls and parties were the most important things in their life. Mrs. Bennet, Miss. Bates, Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram live in our memory s much as Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse or Anne Elliot. The portraits of all these women are exact and minute and each of them is characterized by her own vocabulary. According to Bailey, "There are few heroines in fiction whom we love so much, feel for so much, as we love and feel for Anne Elliot."
Marianne Dashwood and Elinor Dashwood in 'Sense and Sensibility' may be considered as twin heroines. Catherine Morland who is the heroine of Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen speaks about her in the following manner, "Her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affection of any kind, her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of girl, her person pleasing, and when in good looks, pretty and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is." Of all the children of Jane Austen's imagination Elizabeth is the cleverest, wittiest and liveliest. Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park appears meek and modest by modern standards. Emma Woodhouse is unique among Jane Austen's heroine in one respect. She learns and changes and grows in the course of the story. At the beginning of the novel, she is vain and self concerted and proud of her ability to see into the heart of other people and delights in ordering their lives. She is true to life "in her selfishness and in her goodness, in her commonsense and in her folly, in the social and personal vanity which is always leading her into disasters, and in the soundness both of heart and mind which is always there to get her ultimately out of them." She is "a delightful creation and the all-important pivot on which a delightful book turns." But she does not captivate one's heart as Anne Elliot does.
About Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen wrote, "I must confess that I think her (Elizabeth) as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print."
The famous critic E.A. Baker observes, "In every novel there is a family, like or unlike the Austens, and in every novel, one female character in whom it is not too fanciful to recognize an impersonation of the demure observer in the corner of the room, ticking off instances and oddities and forming judgments and conjectures. Being players themselves, with a great deal at stake, these anxious spectators do not see the whole of the game, but they see more than the other players, they read, mark, learn, for their own benefit, sometime they also teach.
Jane Austen's women, particularly her heroines, were so dear to her that it is said she used to look for their portraits whenever she went to Art Exhibitions or Picture-galleries.
Jane Austen's minor women characters are equally memorable and true to life as those of her heroines. These are Mrs. Bennet, Miss Bates, Mrs. Elton, and Mrs. Norics. John Bailey, the famous critic observes, "When we read 'Pride and Prejudice' we do ask ourselves whether any wife and mother was ever so entirely absorbed in being ridiculous as Mrs. Bennet. She never once speaks but to expose her own folly." Mrs. Bennet the silly mother of the brilliant and witty Elizabeth. The novelist introduces her in the following manner-
"She was woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married, its solace was visiting and news."
Miss Bates in Emma, is a character whom R.W. Chapman call truly Shakespearean. She is a character one cannot help laughing at and on her own plane; she is comparable with Sir John Falstaff himself. The famous critic Bailey says about her, "Miss Bates is incomparable! Among all the attempts to put incessant and inconsequent garrulity upon the stage of the novel, this one of Jane Austen stands out alone in solitary certainty of success. Miss Bate's character is to have been taken down by a shorthand writer." In Mrs. Elton who resembles Lady Catherine in insolence and snobbery, we have a character that we hate and despise and also laugh at when she begins boasting about her brother-in-law. In Mrs. Norris we have a character that is truly odious.
Jane Austen liked Elizabeth Bennet best of all her heroines. She wrote: " I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how shall I be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know." Jane Austen is perhaps herself the original for her portrait of Elizabeth and has certainly given her own gaiety, high spirits and courage, wit and readiness, good sense and right feeling. She is handsome and has force and charms of character, sharp intellect and lively wit. She also possesses great strength of character and self respect. The marriage proposal by Darcy to Elazabeth and the rejection of it initially by the lady speaks of the strong will of the lead female character. She is neither tempted by the great wealth and property of Darcy nor intimidated by Lady Catherins's imperious, arrogant and officious behaviour.
Another character of Pride and Prejudic, Lydia, had eloped with Wickham and was finally married to him. This lady, who had the courage to run away, returned to her parents place after the marriage was solemnized, did not hesitate or felt ashamed to display her wedding ring as also her assertion of getting the precedence on the dining table laid for the family. This indicates the carefree nature all feminist would appreciate.
The range of Jane Austen's novels is a narrow and limited one. Jane Austen's range is also limited by the accident of her sex. She gives us the women's point of view. She writes as a woman about woman and on themes that are of interest to woman. Hence it is that there is so much of dancing, card playing, visiting etc. In her novels, even when she writes of man, she does so from the woman's points of view. There is no smoking or hunting or other such sports and recreations as are of exclusive masculine interest. Horse-play and sex, such as we get in Henry Folding are rigidly excluded, "She represents a feminization of the English Novel."
Marital Concord in Jane Austen's Novels:
All of Jane Austen's novels are meticulously integrated. There is not a character or incident that does not make its necessary contribution to the development of the plot. Structurally her novels belong to that type of the "dramatic novel" in which the hiatus between the characters and the plot disappears. The given qualities of the characters determine the action, and the action in turn progressively changes the characters, and thus everything is brought to a happy end. In chapter XXXIV, of Pride and Prejudice, Darcy's proposal is rejected by Elizabeth. However, the action of Darcy in saving the honour of Elizabeth's family changes her attitude towards him and allows love to blossom in her heart which later on culminates in a happy ending in marriage and living happily ever after.
Further, the novel Pride and Prejudice portrays different types of marriages, along with their consequences. The ill-matched couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, show the evil effects of a marriage completely devoid of love and proper understanding between husband and wife. Losing all hopes of marital happiness in the company of his wife of mean understanding, Mr. Bennet, a man of intelligence, turns reserved, capricious and sarcastic. He neglects his domestic responsibilities and confines himself to his study, Even then he is not a wayward person and finds happiness in the books and not in the arms of other women, ie. the institution marriage and family is still honoured by him.
The first of the new marriages in the novel, between Charlotte Lucas, a good natured and sensible girl, and Collins, a foolish man of self-importance and servile nature, is based neither on love nor on similarity of dispositions, but purely on practical considerations. For Charlotte, a girl of small fortune and no beauty, the only respectable option is to ensure economic security by marrying someone rather than live as a maid forever. The marriage of Lydia and Wickham is worse than that of Charlotte and Collins. There is no chance of conjugal felicity in it because it is based on Lydia's infatuation and Wickham's considerations for material gains. Notwithstanding this and pecuniary problems being faced by them it could be seen from the Letter of Lydia to Elizabeth and the narrative after that, still their marriage continued -
"'MY DEAR LIZZY,
'I wish you joy. If you love Mr. Darcy half as well as I do my dear Wickham, you must be very happy. It is a great comfort to have you so rich, and when you have nothing else to do, I hope you will think of us. I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do, of about three or four hundred a year; but, however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not.
'Yours & c."
As it happened that Elizabeth had much rather not, she endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every entreaty and expectation of the kind. Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expenses, she frequently sent them. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to, for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into in difference: her's lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her."
The most satisfactory of the marriages are those of Jane with Bingley and Elizabeth with Darcy. Based as they are on genuine love, they bring real happiness to both the couples. Jane and Bingley fall in love because both are impressed by each other's noble qualities and agreeable manners. Elizabeth finds their marital felicity rationally founded "because they had for basis the excellent understanding and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and him". The marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy conforms to Jane Austen's own view of an ideal marriage.
The marital concord could further be seen from the last few paragraph of Pride and Prejudice , which indicates that the life of all the characters were comfortable with each other, as follows:
Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid
of her two most deserving daughters. With what delighted pride she afterwards visited Mrs. Bingley and talked of Mrs. Darcy may be guessed. I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire in the establishment of so many of her children, produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life; thought perhaps it was lucky for her husband, who might not have relished domestic felicity in so unusual a form, that she still was occasionally nervous and invariably silly.
Mr. Bennet missed his second daughter exceedingly; his affection for her drew him oftener from home than any thing else could do. He delighted in going to Pemberley, especially when he was least expected.
Mr. Bingley and Jane remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth. So near a vicinity to her mother and Meryton relations was not desirable even to his easy temper, or her affectionate heart. The darling wish of his sisters was then gratified; he bought an estate in a neighbouring country to Derbyshire, and Jane and Elizabeth, in addition to every other source of happiness, were within thirty miles of each other.
Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Darcy's marriage; but as she thought it advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley, she dropt all her resentment; was fonder than ever of Georgiana, almost as attentive to Darcy as heretofore, and paid off every arrear of civility to Elizabeth. Pemberley was now Georgiana's home; and the attachment of the sisters was exactly what Darcy had hoped to see. They were able to love each other, even as well as they intended. Georgiana had the highest opinion in world of Elizabeth; though as first she often listed with an astonishment bordering on alarm, at her lively, sportive, manner of talking to her brother. He, who had always inspired in herself a respect which almost overcame her affection, she now saw the object of open pleasantry. Her mind received knowledge which had never before fallen in her way. By Elizabeth's instructions she began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband, which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself.
Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew: and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness if her character, in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by
Elizabeth's persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little farther resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city.
Jane's creative range is in some respects a very limited and narrow one. In the first instance it is confined to her portrayal of the gentry class in which she was born and which she knows best. The 'gentry ,' is that class which is essentially proper to English society, holding to the aristocracy as well as to the middle class, and forming a link between them, is not only the class which Jane Austen knows best, it is also the only class that she wishes to know. Nevertheless, within this class, she showed a well defined traditional order of birth, money and land which she believed could only be upset at great cost. Austen, therefore, preached the conventional pattern of life in the family and in the society; the pattern of behaviour expected towards one's family, friends, acquaintances, admirers, superiors and inferiors. The lesson of her novels is not to do with morals, ethics or religions, but with behaviours. To put it in a single sentence "they are novels which teach individuals how to behave towards others and fit into the society so that a harmonious social relationship is maintained between man and woman, between relations, friends, husband and wife, etc." Her characters are both men and women, but the narrator of the story is a strong woman i.e., the society is seen through the eyes of the lead strong female character who at the end domesticates the main male. Similarly, barring exceptions, other male character are also domesticated. The married couple remains entwined to each other in a concord necessary for continuation of married life even if they are not really satisfied with each other.
We cannot help being impressed by the truthfulness of Jane Austen's representation of human nature and the impartiality with which she analyses the faults of her most favorite characters. Lord David Decil observes, "A man's relation to his wife and children is at least as important a part of his life as his relation to his beliefs and career, and reveals him fundamentally."
An eminent critic, describing Jane Austen as a prose Shakespeare remarks "What, in other hands, would be flat, insipid, intolerable piece of impertinent dullness, becomes at her bidding, a sprightly versatile, never flagging chapter of realities."
A Jane Austen character failing to impress is rather rare phenomenon. Still there are few characters that do not look enough life-like. Jane Fairfax in Emma is a shadowy figure, Margaret in Sense and Sensibility never comes to life. But these minor failures do not detract much from her reputation as one of the greatest delineators of characters. Macaulay observes, "Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who have approached nearest to the manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, common place, all such as we meet every day."
Jane Austen was born and bred in a provincial town in the South of England, and the course of her life was placid, calm and uneventful. The even tenor of her life was varied only by occasional visits to London or to Bath. She belonged to a middle class family and led the life of an average middle class girl. In her novels, she draws upon her personal experiences. The scenes of all her novels are placed in some village in the South of England. She had no experience of urban life and so it is excluded from her novels. In each one of her novels. She is concerned with middle class or upper middle class life. Characters belonging to the lower classes or to the aristocracy were beyond her range, and so they rarely enter the world of her novels. She was familiar with the domestic and social relationships of this limited world and her novels too are concerned with such relationships. Somerset Maugham observes, "She wrote very much the same sort of story in all her books and there is no great variety in her characters." The central theme of all her six novels is the search on the part of mother or aunts for husbands for girls of marriageable age. There are no soaring ambitions and aspirations in her novels, for she herself had never experienced them. Her chief characters are either young girls of marriageable age or young men with fortunes waiting for wives. No black-hearted villains ever make an appearance in her pages. The greatest villainy that ever takes place in the world of Jane Austen is an occasional elopement as that of Lydia with Wickham. There are no adventures or mysteries but only the daily routine or provincial life, picnics, dinners, dances, walks in the countryside or short visits to relatives or friends, either in London or Bath in the neighbourhood.
The main emphasis in Jane Austen's novels is noble manners which she considers as morals in microcosm. The standards by which manners and morals are to be judged are both explicit and implicit in her novels. Self-command, a just consideration of others, knowledge and a principle of right derived from education are the standards by which she judges her characters. According to her the errors and follies of youth are always the result of faulty up-bringing. Lydia is so frivolous and giddy and she elopes with a 'worthless person like Wickham only because she is a neglected and spoiled child. She has not been looked after her parents." Any deviation from the accepted code of manners is likely to have unhappy consequences. She shatters the follies and illusions of mankind and thus makes it know the truth. She judges her characters by the triple standards of goodness sense and taste. Her character exposes themselves in their own words, so that we know them through and through.
The attainment of self-knowledge on the part of the central figures is always Jane Austen's theme and self knowledge results in goodness... Thus Elizabeth gradually discovers the truth and sheds her prejudices. She has been proud of her discernment but she finds that she has been wrong in judging both Darcy and Wickham. By the end of the novel, she realizes her folly and her prejudice. Life for her is a continuous process of increasing self-knowledge. Jane Austen was a religious woman, but religion is not an active element in the life she portrays. Her moralist is not transcendental she is an idealist but a practical idealist. In her view human beings have a duty to perform to themselves and to others, and it is only by performing this duty that true happiness can be achieved. By the end of Jane Austen's novels, there is always the achievement of self-knowledge, self-control and self-perception. Jane Austen does not sentimentalise love, she does not glorify it like earlier novelists but her conception of a genuine union is a loftier one than theirs. She is a practical idealist. She realizes the value of money and comfortable living for a happy marriage. She has no illusions about "Love in a cottage." But she also realizes that married happiness depends not so much on worldly circumstances as on mutual harmony between the marriage partners. Similarly, she recognizes the presence of evil and tolerates it. Wickham is not even reformed by the end of the novel, and Lydia remains as silly and irresponsible as ever. Northanger Abbey tells the story of an ordinary, prosaic girl, Catherine Morland, whose romantic illusions are shattered by her first
Contact with reality. The book shows us how she awakens from her Gothic dream to realize that the world is more sensible than she ever believed it to be. in the novel Sense and Sensibility the characters and fortunes of two sisters Marianne Dashwood and Elinor Dashwood Marianne's 'burning' human heart leads to heart-break, disillusionment and misery till she attains sense enough to marry the elderly Colonel Brandon on prudential considerations. Her sister Elinor, on the other hand, is characterized by intelligence and self-control and these ill-fortunes, enable her to bear her fate calmly. Thus the story may be read as a vindication of 'Sense' and a comic treatment of 'Sensibility'.
Jane Austen is a great realist in art. We will not find among all the men and women created by Jane Austen, a single person who does not belong to the everyday life of common existence. She never attempts to portray guilt and crime and violence, and stormy passions are alike excluded from her novels. Jane Austen studies her characters sympathetically but objectively. As regards their appearance, she treats them quite generally, trying to fix them with a few bold strokes, but she is assiduous in providing details about their disposition, bearing, manners and accomplishments. She tries to penetrate to the very essence of their being. Lord David Cecil observes, "She is not content just to dash down her intuitive impressions of the people and her lucid knife, edged mind was always at work penetrating beneath such impressions to discern their cause, discover the principles of her subject's conduct, the peculiar combination of qualities that go to make up his individuality. And she shows us surface peculiarities always in relation to these essentials." Jane Austen's characters impress us as real men and women since they are drawn to perfection. But without leaving her chosen field, she has been able to observe keenly and to transcribe accurately all the varieties and shades of human character that came her way.
Sir Walter Scott observes, Jane Austen's knowledge of the world, and the peculiar tact with which she presents characters that the reader can not fail to recognize, reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting." In Pride and Prejudice, the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy is traced thorough a very large number of minute details like Darcy's dislike of Mrs. Hurst's leaving Elizabeth to take his disengaged arm as they walk in the Netherfield Park or his coming to stand near Elizabeth as she plays on the piano at the Rosings. Characterization, in Jane
Austen's novels in carried out mostly through conversation, which is combined with narration in little out patches and description which is built .into the narrative. Letters serve the purpose of homologue or soliloquy in a drama. Every little incident and description is carefully introduced to throw some new light upon character.
Jane Austen's characters are revealed through comparison and contrast with others. Lady Catherine and Mrs. Bennet balance each other in their vulgarity as well as their match-making maneuvers. Weckham serves a contrast to Darcy while Bingley is a foil to him. Different virtues in Elizabeth's characters are brought into prominence as she is compared and contrasted with Jane and Caroline Bingley. It is useful to compare Elizbeth with Emma or Anne or Mr. Collins with Mr. Elton.
In her novels, she draws upon her personal experiences. The scenes of all her novels are placed in some village in the South of England. She had no experience of urban life and so it is excluded from her novels. It is mentioned casually as during Jane's visit to London. In each of her novels, she is concerned with middle class or upper middle class life. According to the American Critic O.W. Firkins, three laments have to be particularly noted about Jane Austen's standing as a realist. One is that the convention was very important with her, and that as seen from the dialogues, of her ladies and gentlemen, it influenced her conformity to truth. "This respect for convention in addition to affecting her style and her ethics made the whole form of her conversation artificial and 'warped realism by informing her novels with what one may call the odour of the seminar."
Her characters are no greater than might be found assembled or any country gentleman's dinner table. The central theme of all her six novels was marriage for she herself had never experienced them. Her chief characters are either young girl of marriageable age or young men with fortunes waiting for wives. She gives us the woman's point of view. She writes as a woman about woman and on themes that are of interest to a woman. Hence it is that there is so much of dining, card playing, visiting etc. There is no doubt, that she draws men in their private capacity in their relation with their wives, children, neighbours and friends. Her under standing of human nature is complete. She possesses full knowledge of the head and heart of her character. She presents her figures so wonderfully, that the same person tricks differently to different persons. To Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine is a perfect specimen of humanity,
To Elizabeth she is a stupid woman of bad manners. Her characters are many sided-they are mixture of good and evil, virtue and wickedness in varying proportions like real human beings.
Jane Austen's novels give the impression of universality, for she satirises in relation to universal standards of values. Taste, sense and virtue are the values dear to Jane Austen and these are the values that have been dear to humanity in every age and country. Jane Austen's view of life is realistic. She is an idealist but a practical idealist. She realizes the presence of evil and that it can not be done away with, and so she quietly accepts it. She despises all ideals that are not related to the facts of human life. She recognizes the claims both of the body and the soul; it is a civilized philosophy for civilized people.