English Literature
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Jane Austen

Jane Austen

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Jane Austen: A Renowned English Novelist in the Literary Canon

Jane Austen, a prominent figure in the English literary canon, holds a significant role in shaping literature with her works. Her renowned novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) is among her many literary works that explore and comment on the lives of the British upper-middle class during the 18th and 19th centuries. As we delve into her novels, we will also uncover more about Jane Austen and the historical context surrounding her.

Biography of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, as the seventh child among eight. Her parents strongly encouraged their children to pursue education. Throughout her life, Jane shared a close bond with her elder sister, Cassandra, who was named after their mother. Growing up in a loving family environment, Jane was able to share her first attempts at writing, believed to have been written around 1787.

Despite her focus on romantic love and marriage in her novels, Jane never tied the knot herself. However, debates about her own love life arose due to the secrecy maintained by her sister, Cassandra. In 2007, the film "Becoming Jane" (starring Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy) weaves together a mix of fact and fiction about Austen's life, loosely based on her relationship with Tom Lefroy.

In 1801, Austen moved to Bath with her family, but tragedy struck when her father passed away in 1805. The three women then relocated to Southampton and eventually to Chawton. However, in January 1817, Jane's health began to decline. She believed she was suffering from bile, but modern medical assessments suggest she may have had Addison's disease. In April, she prepared her will, and in May, she moved to Winchester for medical assistance. Sadly, she passed away on July 18th, 1817, at the young age of 41.

Books and Quotes by Jane Austen

Jane Austen wrote several books, all revolving around themes such as propriety and class, morality, romantic love, friendship, and the position of women during the Regency Era in England. Let's take a closer look at some of her notable works and quotes.

Sense and Sensibility (1811)

"I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way."

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Pride and Prejudice is undoubtedly one of Austen's most beloved stories, with over 15 screen adaptations. Interestingly, there are also modern adaptations, such as the romantic comedy "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001) and the Bollywood musical "Bride and Prejudice" (2004).

Mansfield Park (1814)

"We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be."

Mansfield Park is considered one of Austen's more serious works. It tells the story of Fanny Price, a poor young woman under the care of her wealthy relatives, the Bertram family, who largely disregard her. The novel serves as a cautionary tale about morality and deception, with the heroine eventually emerging unscathed.

Emma (1815)

"You must be the best judge of your own happiness."

Did you know that the cult-classic 1995 film "Clueless" is a modern adaptation of Austen's "Emma"?

Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous)

"It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the 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."

Persuasion (1818, posthumous)

"Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."

"Persuasion" is a novel about second chances, focusing on Anne Elliot, who was convinced not to marry Frederick Wentworth, the man she loved, due to his lack of status. Eight years later, Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars as a Captain in the navy. When Anne reunites with him, their love is reignited.

Main Themes in Jane Austen's Novels

The five main themes in Austen's works are morality, class and society, gender roles, love, and family. These themes are prevalent throughout her novels, as her main characters struggle to find a balance between their social obligations and their personal desires.

In Jane Austen's Novels, Morality and Christianity Lead to True Happiness for Characters in Spite of Social Barriers

Jane Austen's works depict characters facing struggles and ultimately finding happiness by maintaining their morality. Surprisingly, this is not in defiance of their beliefs, but rather because of their adherence to Christianity, which is deeply embedded in Austen's works. Her characters' moral choices are heavily influenced by their Christian values, and many of her female protagonists even end up marrying clergymen.

Exploring the Interconnected Themes of Morality and Greed

Aside from highlighting morality, Austen also delves into the theme of greed in her novels. Negative characters, such as Mr. Wickham, are depicted as lacking in morals due to their insatiable desire for wealth and societal status overpowering their sense of right and wrong.

Class, Society, and Gender Roles in Austen's Novels

Class and society play significant roles in Austen's works, with most of her female protagonists coming from the middle class. The lack of fortune serves as a major obstacle in their pursuit of happiness, as the upper-class characters often snub those of lower status. Even in present times, Austen's commentary on how society's standing may not always reflect one's character or morals remains relevant.

In addition, Austen also explores gender roles and societal expectations for women in 18th and 19th century England. Women were bound by strict social etiquette and faced numerous challenges and limitations, including a lack of economic independence and pressure to marry for status rather than love. As a female author herself, Austen was well-aware of society's undervaluing of women's intelligence and the limitations placed upon them. This is evident in her choice to publish her novels anonymously.

Love, Marriage, and Family in Austen's Stories

Despite the challenges and limitations faced by women in her time, love remains the central theme in all of Austen's novels. While marrying for economic security or social status was prevalent during this era, Austen's main characters defy societal norms by choosing love as their driving force. Marriage was often seen as a means to gain freedom for women, but Austen's heroines insist on marrying for love. Although marriage during this time was not based on equality, Austen's characters find partners who accept and respect them as individuals.

Moreover, family plays a crucial role in Austen's works, with a character's social status, education, and prospects often defined by their family background. Austen also focuses on the relationship between sisters, drawing inspiration from her close bond with her own sister, Cassandra.

Jane Austen's Literary Contributions and Legacy

Jane Austen's impact on literature is significant, as she pioneered the genre of the novel of manners. Her works provide a realistic portrayal of the customs and values of society. Through a combination of realism, humor, and social commentary, Austen examines the lives of the British middle class in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her characters, such as the clever Elizabeth Bennet and the pompous Mr. Collins, continue to fascinate readers even after two centuries.

The Life and Legacy of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire, and spent her entire life in Southern England. She resided in various places, including Steventon, Bath, Southampton, Chawton, and Winchester, where she passed away on July 18th, 1817 due to Addison's disease. Throughout her life, Austen wrote seven completed novels, two unfinished novels, plays, poetry, letters, and three volumes of early writings. Some of her most notable works include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.

The reason for Jane Austen's decision to remain unmarried is still unknown, but it is believed that she chose to dedicate herself to her writing career. Her legacy lives on, inspiring and captivating readers, demonstrating her importance as a writer and keen observer of society and human nature.

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