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Austens Women in a Conservative Society Essay Example

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Austens Women in a Conservative Society

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Austens Women in a Conservative Society. “The social world she described so minutely was that of the Regency, a period, partly in the 18th, partly in the 19th century, that had its own particular characteristics. It was a time when the rigid class system of the earlier 18th century was breaking down, especially in the middle, between the top ruling class of the wealthy and influential land-owning aristocrats and the working classes” (Priestley, 1960: 79). This meant a change in the rigid system of manners that had typified the upper classes as wealthy merchants and sailors began to afford the properties of the decadent rich who, often placing more value on appearances than realities, began overspending. With this change, the role of women was also changed, and it is this change that Austen captures in her novels as she introduces the idea of women as full thinking, feeling and reasonable people, planting the early seeds for the future feminist movements.

Austen’s characters, in true female fashion, sought nothing more than an advantageous marriage that would bring honor and dignity to the family as well as comfort and prosperity to her home, depicting the social ideal that the woman’s place was in the home and her career, regardless of her personal tastes, opinions or desires, was to be marriage. “In addition to being able to sing, play an instrument and speak a little French or Italian, the qualities a young … gentlewoman needed, was to be innocent, virtuous, biddable, dutiful and be ignorant of intellectual opinion” (Thomas, 2007). While each of her heroines are shown to possess these qualities in some form or another – Catherine of Northanger Abbey is innocently drawn into the world of ‘horrors’ represented by the Gothic novel, Marianne Dashwood is illustrated as being an accomplished musician in Sense and Sensibility and Anne is greatly admired by Mr Elliot for her proficiency in translating Italian in Persuasion – most are also shown to have an independent streak that insists upon happiness as well, pushing their restrictions to find a semblance of freedom and independence even within the institution of marriage.  . Austens Women in a Conservative Society.

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References

Austen, Jane. (1815; reprinted 1991). Emma. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman’s Library.

Austen, Jane. (1818; reprinted 1995). Northanger Abbey. New York: Random House.

Austen, Jane. (1818; reprinted 1995). Persuasion. New York: Random House.

Austen, Jane. (1992). “Mansfield Park.” The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Vol. 1. New York: The Modern Library.

Austen, Jane. (1992). “Pride and Prejudice.” The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Vol. 1. New York: The Modern Library.

Austen, Jane. (1992). “Sense and Sensibility.” The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Vol. 1. New York: The Modern Library.

Bald, Marjorie. (1963). Women-Writers of the Nineteenth-Century. New York: Russell & Russell.

Butler, Marilyn. (1975). Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Church, Richard. (1962). “Portraits of People in Austen’s Emma.” Reprinted in Bloom, Harold. (1997). Readings on Jane Austen. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

Dean, Jennifer. (1998). “Jane Austen and the Female Condition: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England.” University of Alabama. Available May 10, 2007 from < http://www.uah.edu/colleges/liberal/education/S1998/jennyd.html>

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. (1979). The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination New Have: Yale University Press.

Grab, Ginger. (July-September, 2005). “Money and Marriage.” The Living Pulpit.

Mansell, Darrel. (1973). The Novels of Jane Austen. New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Monaghan, David. (1980). Jane Austen Structure and Social Vision. New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Monaghan, David. (1981). “Austen’s Women in a Conservative Society.” Jane Austin in a Social Context. Reprinted in David Bender et al, (1997) Readings on Jane Austen. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

Moody, Ellen. (2003). “Lady Bertram: A Cleverer Lady than One Thinks.” English and Continental Literature. Available May 10, 2007 from <http://www.jimandellen.org/mp/LadyBertramAClevererLadythanonethinks.html>

Poole, Daniel. (1993). What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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Priestley, J.B. (1960). “Austen Portrays a Small World with Humor and Detachment.” Four English Novels. New York: Harcourt Brace. Reprinted in David Bender et al, (1997) Readings on Jane Austen. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

Thomas, Pauline Weston. (2007). “A Woman’s Place in C19th Victorian History.” Fashion Era. Available May 10, 2007 from < http://www.fashion-era.com/a_womans_place.htm>

Thompson, Emma. (1995). The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: The making of the film based on the Jane Austen novel. New York: Newmarket.

Weldon, Fay. (1984). “England in Austen’s Time.” Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen. Reprinted in David Bender et al, (1997) Readings on Jane Austen. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.

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