Austen Essay

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With unsurpassed charm and subtlety, Jane Austen’s novels of country life present and appraise the manners, morals, and relationships of Regency England’s prosperous middle class. In choosing to depict what she called her “bits of ivory,” the segment of the world she knew best, Jane Austen steered the course of the English novel away from the melodramatic implausibilities that dominated popular fiction at the turn of the nineteenth century. Sir Walter Scott, who recognized the importance of Austen’s choice, also praised her for the literary finesse that made such a choice workable, “the exquisite touch which renders commonplace things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment.”

Although the subject of Jane Austen’s novels was contemporary life, it was contemporary literature with its various excesses and deficiencies which inspired her earliest attempts at fiction. In the short pieces collected as her juvenilia—tales, miniature novels, and epistolary narratives—Austen applies the conventions of sentimental fiction, which she and her family read avidly but critically, with rigorous consistency and pushes them to their logical extremes to demonstrate that such standards produce slipshod literature and convey a false view of the world.

Austen’s juvenile fiction differs from the novels in its audience as well as in its subject matter. The young author wrote these short pieces for the private amusement of her family, and as an experienced novelist never contemplated revising and publishing them. Consequently the reader familiar with the decorous elegance of the public prose sees a new side of Jane Austen in the short fiction which, like her letters, voices a tough candor and a blunt humor that the novels mute: Remarks such as “Damme Elfrida you may be married but I wont” seldom make their way from the nursery of Austen’s short fiction to the drawing rooms of her adult novels.

Many of the apprentice pieces are literary parodies and burlesques poking fun at the distinctive features of the novel of sensibility: the high-flown language, incredible coincidences, instant friendships, immoderate loves, unaccountable lapses of memory, and sudden recognitions. For example, “Evelyn” amusingly points out the dangers of the cult of sensibility’s much-vaunted “sympathetic imagination” unallied with judgment by portraying a village full of utterly and undiscriminatingly benevolent people. “The Beautifull Cassandra” achieves its comic effect by yoking two shortcomings of the popular novel: absurd, unmotivated action included to engage readers and trivial details supplied to convince them. A typical effusion from “Frederic and Elfrida” demonstrates the emptiness of the sentimental novel’s stock praises and the egocentricity of its refined protagonists:Lovely & too charming Fair one, notwithstanding your forbidding Squint, your greazy tresses & your swelling Back, which are more frightfull than imagination can paint or pen describe, I cannot refrain from expressing my raptures, at the engaging Qualities of your Mind, which so amply atone for the Horror, with which your first appearance must ever inspire the unwary visitor. Your sentiments so nobly expressed on the different excellencies of Indian & English Muslins, & the judicious preference you...

(The entire section is 1379 words.)

Jane Austen, who is one of the greatest authors, is one of my favorite authors as well. I love all of her books that I have read and enjoy the movies based on them. She wrote about things she knew about and used humor to write about “the lives of minor landed gentry, country clergymen, and families in various economic circumstances struggling to maintain or enhance their social position. The most urgent preoccupation of her young, well-bred heroines and heroes is courtship and marriage.” (1)

Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775 in Hampshire, England. She lived with her family all her life and she never married. Jane started writing as a child to entertain her family. Although she had finished writing Pride and Prejudice in 1798, she published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1811. She went on the publish Pride and Prejudice in 1813, after much revision. Mansfield Park and Emma were soon published within a few years. Austen always published her books anonymously, this being agreeable to her retiring nature. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published 1818, after she died, by her brother, who then revealed her authorship. She was admired in her lifetime as much as she is now. Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817 and was buried in the Winchester Cathedral. In 1925, Sanditon, a novel that Austen was working on when she died was published. Austen is considered an English classic and one of the greatest authors ever. (1)

The first line of Pride and Prejudice is “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (2) This sentence says it all, it shows the humor that Austen injected into this novel by taking ordinary subjects such as courtship and marriage and elaborately writing of them intelligently. Pride and Prejudice, which is Austen’s best-known novel, is about how first impressions can lead to prejudices and how misguiding these can be. The novel’s central is Elizabeth Bennet, who has four sisters and whose circumstances require that they all marry well. Pride and Prejudice is a clear example of Austen’s humorous outlook of the human’s state of being. While Austen focuses on manners and matrimony, she also focuses on how the feelings of an intellect alter. Pride and Prejudice focuses on everyday events and feelings that people are going through, such as being embarrassed by family and falling in love. I think this novel offers so much delight for a reader because Austen seems to understand the actions of people in love, and presents them with a humorous approach.(2)

Sense and Sensibility, the first to be published of Austen’s novels, is about the lives and romances of two sisters who are very different from each other. Sense and Sensibility is about finding a compromise between love and passion. The novel is about how the sisters react to their romantic hardships, and the lessons they learn from them. Elinor, the eldest of the two sisters, is sensible and believes in being rational, where Marianne is idealistic and passionate. This leads to dramas both in the family and in society. The novel leaves readers wondering if you can really mix love and reason. (3)

Mansfield Park, which was published in 1814, shows Austen’s maturity and shows that Austen had “turned her unerring eye on the concerns of the English society at the time of great upheaval.” (4) The main character is Fanny Price, who is a poor relative living with her aunt and uncle, the Bertrams. This novel is full of sibling rivalry, ambition and greed. When Fanny’s uncle has to leave the family for an extended amount of time, the house is soon thrown into turmoil and becomes full of scandal. Fanny soon finds herself fighting and competing for her cousin Edmund’s love. The story becomes increasingly riveting until the final scandal and the fulfilling conclusion. (4)

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with the comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence, and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” (5) This is the introduction of one of the most memorable characters of Austen’s, in my opinion. Emma believes that she is impervious to love and romance. She is continually trying to do good deeds but instead chaos fills the lives of those near her. Emma is a timeless coming-of-age tale in which Emma searches for her true self and love. (5)

Northanger Abbey, published in 1818, is a humorous twist on 18th-century Gothic “potboilers” such as The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe. Catherine, the heroine of the novel, is born into a normal life. She grows up liking boyish pastimes, and reading Gothic romances. She is invited to Northanger Abbey, where her imagination runs wild. Austen also mocks so-called “polite” society by the hypocrisy that Catherine’s friends display. Northanger Abbey is considered Austen’s most lighthearted and humorous novel; however it is a serious, cynical novel on love and matrimony, written in the manner of 19th-century Britain. (6)

Persuasion was published, one year after Austen died, in 1818. Although it is a basic love story on the surface underneath it studies human shortcomings and social instability. Anne Elliot, the oldest of Austen’s heroine’s, was in love and engaged to Fredrick Wentworth, when Lady Russell, her female friend, tells her that he is undeserving of her love. Anne breaks off her engagement and spends the next eight years regretting her lost love. Anne’s family has pondered away their money and now must lease Kellynch Hall, their family estate, or lose it for good. While Wentworth is away at sea, making his fortune, his sister becomes the tenant of Kellynch Hall. He returns to find Anne’s family in financial ruins. The novel focuses on whether the two will reunite. I believe that Jane Austen has a talent for exposing English customs and principles with delicately ironic observations. I think that this talent is still shown in Persuasion, her last complete novel. (7)


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