esposearch - ideal online careers

Jane Austen’s and Her Works’ Influences

Have you ever thought where the works of imaginative literature come from? The writers create them when inspired, but what is inspiration? It is nothing less than the genius that enables people to commit their thoughts to paper in such a way that these thoughts are embodied in words in a perfect way. They are committed to paper, become immortal, and live for centuries, making the works or authors pieces of classical literature that arouse equal interest and intense emotions in the readers belonging to different historical epochs. The secret of the immortality of works of classical literature is that they perfectly reflect the personal life and social conditions that the author’s experiences, let through their consciousness, and offer their readers. Such novels as Sense and Sensibility and Emma are not exceptions to the rule. Austen wrote her novels with “genius, wit, and taste to recommend them”, as she noted herself (Auerbach 100). Jane Austen’s life and times are reflected in her works. Two main factors will be analyzed in the present paper: the first will be connected with times the authoress has witnessed and the social background of society and the position of a woman in society; the second will be connected with Austen’s life directly. The present paper will be devoted to the position of a woman and her dependence on marriage that was characteristic of the epoch Austen describes; the second issue will be the problems of social class in Austen’s life and their reflection in her works.

The importance of marriage for a woman is unquestionable even in our emancipated feministic society; it is evident that marriage was of high importance for women who were deprived of social rights and were dependent on marriage bonds and social status guaranteed by them. It is impossible to omit this theme in Austen’s novels, as it is the central theme of many works of hers, not only those that are analyzed in this paper. It is the central theme of Pride and Prejudice as well. Paula Byrne states that “the plight of unmarried women in society is the theme that she [Austen] returns to again and again” (Byrne 21). Austen herself would never marry without love (Kaplan 114), probably, such attitude to marriage that confronted the social situation of that time, was one of the reasons why the authoress remained unmarried. Simons mentions “revitalizing power of marriage” in Austen’s novels, she asserts that Austen describes marriage as a form of participation in society that was the only one available for female heroines of Austen’s works and women of that time in general (Simons 133). Myer also states that unmarried daughters created a great financial burden for their parents (61) and the great importance of this issue found reflection in Austen’s works due to its social and personal significance.

The importance of marriage for a woman of that time can be clearly observed in the text of Sense and Sensibility. As we know, the authoress starts the novel with the information about Mr. Henry Dashwood’s one son and three daughters “by his present lady” (Austen et al. 3). After the death of the head of the family, the women are left to their own devices because of the unfair treatment of John Dashwood provoked by his wife Fanny though the father’s “last request” was “to assist his widow and daughters” (Austen et al. 7). This means that the whole power concentrated in the hands of men, women without their support were sure to appear a tight corner. Marriage is the way out; this is why Mrs. Jennings stresses the necessity of finding husbands for young heroines and willfully decides to take up the task of rescuing the ladies. The authoress depicts marriage as “the trope by which conflicts are resolved” (Looser 77). A picturesque example in this relation is the character of Marianne who is shown by Austen as an immature young lady driven by emotions and sensibility. Still, at the end of the novel, she is mature already and the sign of this maturity is her acceptance of Colonel Brandon’s proposal.

It is worth mentioning that the character of Emma differed greatly from other female heroines of Austen, mainly her social position was the thing that differed her from other characters of Austen. Still, just as the eventual marriage of Marianne, it becomes Emma’s salvation as well. Byrne states that as Kinghtley’s wife, Emma will “enter his life of activity and environment” (72). The thing that determines Emma’s character and so frequent foolish behavior, though the lady possesses intelligence, is that she is awfully bored and has no outlet for her imagination (Byrne 72). Lynch says that Austen’s heroine “is never precisely in a position to be a ‘female Robinson Crusoe’” (210). However, Emma is isolated and only marriage brings her emotional harmony, the thing she has been deprived of. She realized that she loved Kinghtley and she could reconsider her initial immature position when she stated that “a man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her” (Austen and Marcus 53). She finally gets at the secret of marriage and its necessity for a woman, no matter how rich and intelligent she is by herself.

The second factor that influences the characters of Austen’s novels and the flow of the works is the authors’ attitude towards family, relatives, and her home. It is known that Austen was a daughter of a clergyman who lived “as middle-class, but at the price of continual debt” (Austen and Weisser xx). The Austens were frequently dependent on those people from whom they could borrow money, thus the issue of social class and tight living conditions were important for Jane and found reflection in her works.

As for tight social conditions and oppressive social status, the family of the Dashwoods is the perfect example to set. After the death of the head of the family, the women have to face the reality of life without financial support or with insufficient support. They have no house of their own, Elinor’s words: “you will … find your own house faultless” (Austen et al. 56). The necessity of financial stability is the thing that the women lack so much. The information about their living conditions is so realistic because it is first hand information, Jane Austen knows what financial instability and life in the net of debts is. Still, the Austens were always together, “the basic instrument of … unity [was] the family” (Simons 131).

As for the main character of Emma, she is the woman whose social status is favorable and she does not suffer lack of money. Far more interesting in this relation is Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, and her daughter who is a spinster. The authoress describes the way how the whole society of Highbury conspires to “enable them to keep up appearances” (Collins 129). They women live in “a very moderate seized apartment” that does not even belong to them (Austen and Marcus 139), they live in “genteel poverty” (Poplawsky 78). Collins states that Austen used a prototype of Miss Benn who lived in Chawton to create the character. The experience of her own family is a background of the characters as well. Thus, she was well aware of “the precarious situation” (Selwyn 1) and the conditions women had to live under and it found reflection in her novel.

Drawing a conclusion, it is possible to state that Austen’s view of life, her personal experience and attitude to life, her moral principles and realities she had to face found reflection in her novels. The secret of the authoress’ talent is in her ability to tackle the issues of the whole society along with her personal experience. She has perfectly shown that marriage and social status are the issues of vital importance for her personally and for all women of her time. Thus, social status and social class are important issues described in the analyzed novels.

Works Cited

Auerbach, Emily. Searching for Jane Austen. USA: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.

Austen, Jane, Doody, Margaret Anne, Kinsley, James, and Claire Lamont. Sense and Sensibility. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Austen, Jane, and Steven Marcus. Emma. New York: Spark Education Publishing, 2004.

Austen, Jane, and Susan Ostrov Weisser. Persuasion. New York: Spark Educational Publishing, 2005.

Byrne, Paula. Jane Austen’s Emma: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Collins, Irene. Jane Austen and the Clergy. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.

Kaplan, Deborah. Jane Austen among Women. Baltimore: JHU Press, 1994.

Looser, Devoney. Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

Lynch, Deidre. The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Poplawski, Paul. A Jane Austen Encyclopedia. USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Simons, Judy. Mansfield Park and Persuasion. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.

Selwyn, David. Jane Austen and Leisure. USA: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999.


About the author

we will assist you 24/7

Quick Contact

Keep current with the ESPOSEARCH Blog. Let’s get it written!

EspoSearch Ⓒ 2022 - All Rights Are Reserved