Jane Austen was an English novelist whose books, set among the English middle and upper classes, are notable for their wit, social observation and insights into the lives of early 19th century women.
Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775 in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, in the south-west England. She was one of eight children of a clergyman and grew up in a close-knit family. Her inseparable companion was her sister Cassandra who, like Jane, never married.
She was educated at home by her father and irregularly at school, but she received a broader education than many women of her time Immediately showed an interest in literature. Austen's own favorite poet was Cowper. She began to write as a teenager, for family amusement. From 1787 she produced a large output of prose and between 1795 and 1796, she completly “Elionor and Marianne” which would become “Sense and Sensibility.”
In 1801 the family moved to Bath. After the death of Jane's father in 1805: Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved to Chawton, near Steventon. Jane's brother, Henry, helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, 'Sense and Sensibility', appeared in 1811. Her next novel “First Impression”, which became 'Pride and Prejudice', received highly favourable reviews. In 1798 she wrote “Northanger Abbey”, which was published posthumously. 'Mansfield Park' was published in 1814, and 'Emma' in 1816. This one was dedicated to the prince regent, an admirer of her work. Finally she wrote “Persuasion”, a novel published in 1818, after her death.
Infact in 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison's disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18th July 1817. A final novel “Sanditon” was left incomplete.
Jane Austen wrote her novels in the romantic period, but she isn’t at all romantic, in fact her concepts are more associated to classicism. She detested gothic fictions so she was able to elaborate a personal and original style.
In particular she deals with love in a very classical way, without romance, she uses a simple language and the characters are round characters, while in gothic they were flat.
Jane Austen’s novels described scenes as three of four families in a country village. Her novel are set in the provincial world of Southern England which she knew from her own experience. Main characters belong to rural middle class, landed gentry and country clergy and they are very precisely described. She gives voice to the small country gentry who was just below nobility: they didn’t go to work because they have an income from their lands, but they haven’t got any title. Her novels explore the world of the country gentry at the end of 18th century. People coming from other social classes appear in the novel, but they are not analysed deeply, they haven’t got a central part, they aren’t protagonist.
She can be considered as forerunner of psychoanalytic analysis because of her interest into self-awareness. We can see this aspect in her works where the main characters make a process of grow and development during the course of the novel so at the end of a novel it is impossible see the same character we have seen at its beginning.
They are characterized by the age, income, marital situation and prospect and social position. With irony, wit and keen she explores human emotion and behaviour. This was the world which characterized England before the industrial Revolution. Her characters reveal themselves very largely through dialogue, which is only apparently the ordinary conversation of everyday life. Jane Austen is careful in the selection of an idiom suited to the person who is speaking.
DIALOGUE AND IRONY:
Austen’s descriptions of life depend on dialogue and irony. It does not illustrate a moral. She uses an omniscient third-person narrator. Her irony is always gentle, expressed in nicely balanced and acute observation. Jane Austen smiles gently at human fragilities. From a stylistically point of view we can say that she makes a frequent use of irony which permits her to critic the aspects of society she hates.
NOVEL OF MANNERS:
Jane Austen contributed to what has been called as the NOVEL OF MANNERS, a kind of fiction focused on everyday routine life and events.
Her novels are based on the premise that there is a vital relationship between manners, social behaviour and character. They are usually set in those levels of society where people do not ha-
ve to struggle for survival and where they are free to develop more or less elaborate RULES, CODES and CONVENTIONS of daily behaviour. Given this kind of situation, the novel of
manners explores character, personal relationships, class distinctions and their effect on cha-
racter and behaviour; the role of MONEY and PROPERTY in the way people treat each other;
the complications of LOVE and FRIENDSHIP within this social world. CONVERSATION plays a central role in these novels and PASSIONS and EMOTIONS are not expressed directly but mo-
re subtly and obliquely.
Her novels also focus on the issue of gaining a suitable marriage. Marriage was a big issue facing women and men of her time; often financial considerations were paramount in deciding marriages. As an author, Jane used to satirise these financial motivations, for example, in Pride and Prejudice the mother is ridiculed for her ambitions to marry her daughters for maximum financial remuneration. Jane, herself remained single throughout her life. Very little we know about his sentimental life. Maybe, she had a romantic love story with a young man Tom Lefroy, who had no money, but he was compelled to go abroad to seek fortune. This experience inspired the story of Ann Elliot in Persuasion.
The strength of Jane’s novels was her ability to gain penetrating insights into the character and nature of human relationships, from even a fairly limited range of environments and characters. In particular, she helped to redefine the role and aspirations of middle class women like herself. Through providing a witty satire of social conventions, she helped to liberate contemporary ideas of what women could strive for. He soon developed the qualities of a keen observer of human society: she possessed a great ability to read right inside people. With irony, she explores human emotion and behaviour.
The DEBT to the 18th century NOVEL:
Jane Austen owes much to the 18th century novelists:
• from Richardson and the epistolary novel she learned the endless possibilities offered by the insight into the psychology of the characters and the subtleties of the ordinary events of life, like balls, walks, tea-parties and visits to friends and neighbours;
• from Fielding she derived the OMNISCIENT NARRATOR and the technique of bringing the character into existence through dialogue.
Unlike the Augustan writers, however, she restricted her view to the world of the COUNTRY GENTRY she knew best.
The traditional values of the families of the landed gentry and upper middle class ( PROPERTY, DECORUM, MONEY and MARRIAGE ) provided the basis of the plots and settings of her novels.
Jane Austen's preoccupation was with people, and the analysis of character and conduct. She remai-ned committed to the common sense and moral principles of the previous generation but checked
them through her own direct observation and spontaneous feeling.
Her work is amusing and, at the same time, deals with the serious matters of LOVE, MARRIAGE and PARENTHOOD. The happy ending is a common element to her novels: they all end in the marriage of hero and heroine. What makes them interesting is the concentration on the steps through which the protagonists successfully reach this stage in their lives.
The author treats love and sexual attraction according to her general view that strong impulses and intensely emotional states should be regulated, CONTROLLED and BROUGHT TO ORDER by private reflection, not in favour of some abstract standard of reason but to fulfill a social obligation.
The heroine's reflection after a crisis or climax is a usual feature of J. Austen's novels because understanding and coming to terms with her private feelings allows her personal judgement to establish itself and secures her own moral autonomy.
Women weren’t great considered by the people, and when Victoria went on the throne she was queen of the most important nation in the world (after the defeat of Napoleon).
Because of the rigid divisions between classes women could climb the social ladder only with the marriage.
Women hadn’t the same rights of men, if a father had a propriety, he would not leave it to his daughter but only to his sons, and if he had no male children, he would have to leave it to the closer male heir.
A woman who didn’t get married would have a bad future.
In the upper middle class mothers had an important rule in their families; they had to give a good education to their children and to search a good husband for their daughters (in Pride and Prejudice Mrs. Bennet was worried about his sons- in- low, also because his daughters couldn’t receive their father propriety because all of them was females). They also decided where her children had to study and what, they choose the most prestigious university.
They used to write letters, diaries; to read a lot of books, to sing, to make philanthropy and to organize party.
Women of the upper class didn’t want to change the lows but they believed in the personal help for poor people.
In the lower middle class also women had to work hardly, so they had no time to take care of their children.
1) The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, moral rightness, education and marriage in her aristocratic society of early 19th century England. Elizabeth is the second eldest of five daughters of a country gentleman landed in the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, not far from London.
2) The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne, two daughters of Mr. Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John, and the Dashwood women are left in reduced circumstances. The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience both romance and heartbreak. The contrast between the sisters' characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. Through the events in the novel, Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense (or pure logic) and sensibility (or pure emotion) in life and love.
3) Northanger Abbey follows seventeen-year-old Gothic novel aficionado Catherine Morland and family friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen as they visit Bath, England. Catherine is in Bath for the first time, and is excited to spend her time visiting newly-made friends, such as Isabella Thorpe, and going to balls. Catherine finds herself pursued by Isabella's brother, the rather rough-mannered dandy John Thorpe, and by her real love interest, Henry Tilney. She also becomes friends with Eleanor Tilney, Henry's younger sister. Henry captivates her with his view on novels and his knowledge of history and the world. General Tilney (Henry and Eleanor's father) invites Catherine to visit their estate, Northanger Abbey, which, from her reading of Ann Radcliffe's gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, she expects to be dark, ancient and full of Gothic horrors and fantastical mystery.
4) The main character, Fanny Price, is a young girl from a relatively poor family, raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. She grows up with her four cousins, Tom Bertram, Edmund Bertram, Maria Bertram and Julia, but is always treated as inferior to them; only Edmund shows his real kindness. He is also the most virtuous of the siblings: Maria and Julia are vain and spoiled, while Tom is an irresponsible gambler. Over time, Fanny's gratitude for Edmund's kindness secretly grows into romantic love.
5) Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma, however, is also rather spoiled; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; and she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives and is often mistaken about the meanings of others' actions.
6) More than seven years prior to the events in the novel, Anne Elliot falls in love with a handsome young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth, who is intelligent and ambitious, but poor. Anne's father and her older friend and mentor, Lady Russell, acting in place of Anne's deceased mother, persuade her to break off the match. Now, aged 27 and still unmarried, Anne re-encounters her former fiancé. However, he has not forgiven Anne for her rejection of him.