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Jane Austen Novels

The novels of Jane Austen are terrific topics for American Literature research papers. Austen is one of the most well-reveared female novelists in America. Below you will see how to organize a basic book report on any of Jane Austen novels.

A book report on a novel by Jane Austen should contain 3 basic elements:

  1. An introduction to the Austen novel
  2. Detail the plot
  3. Write a conclusion that summarizes what you've written about the Jane Austen novel

The work of Jane Austen has been both admired and criticized.  Her work differed from that of other author’s in that she seemed perfectly willing to challenge the social and class structures of her time by way of subtle satire. Through her works, Austen portrays the life of the gentry, complete with faults, bringing out the good and virtuous nature of her heroines as she does so.

At first glance, Austen’s novels appear to be pure romance novels, with her heroines finding their true loves in the end. Yet as the reader becomes a true Austen connoisseur, another common theme seems to emerge, that of class and social status, of the many differences between the “have’s” and “have-not’s”. In Austen’s novels, the rich and status endowed lead lives envied by others, even as some of Austen’s heroine’s struggle against the strict rules of society that keeps them apart from their hearts desire. Austen, through her heroines, describes the realities of England’s aristocratic society even as she ridicules it through the thoughts and actions of her books characters. In many ways Austen depicts the “have’s” as those who are truly living without in that they lack the breath and depth of genuine feeling found in those who do not have to worry about keeping up an image.

Detail the Plot

When writting the plot details, summarize the storyline by telling who the main charaters are. Do not describe them in details but tell important things that one can understand about the characters in order to make sense of the story (eg. tell if the charater is blind or a drug addict). Below are some basic plots of Jane Austen's novels involving strong female leads:

  • Elinor Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility shows strength of character by her ability to take over for the family after her father’s death, and in her denial of the man she loves by refusing to break her word.
  • In Austen’s work Pride and Prejudice she created a character many critics cite as closest to her own. Elizabeth Bennet is proud and willing to stand firm on what she believes. Pride and Prejudice was Austen’s first completed novel and the one many cite as the most popular. The true heroine in this story, Elizabeth Bennet, refuses to follow in her sisters’ footsteps by choosing a wealthy mate for marriage even though she knows that after her father’s death she will be left with nothing.
  • Anne Eliot in the book Persuasion does not have the strength to pursue what she truly wants. Instead, she quietly accepts her fate of giving up her true love in order to please her family.
  • Emma Woodhouse of the book Emma is both liked and disliked for her outspokenness and scheming.
  • Fanny Price in the book Mansfield Park is perhaps the heroine that draws the most empathy from the reading audience. She is quiet and keeps her feelings from those around her hidden. She dutifully obeys the rules of the house, yet at the same time, pursues the road she feels will lead to her own happiness.
  • Austen extends the traits of honesty and courage in her heroine Catherine Morland in the book Northanger Abbey. In Catherine, courage shines through the character’s fear and is seen in her desire to help others regardless of the cost to herself.

Write a Conclusion

In the conclusion, give your personal evaluation breifly descibe how you fell about the book and why. Do you feel it was well written and easy to follow? Did you find it was interting and able to hold your attention? If there was a serious point or message to the story, do you agree with the message? Were there any characters or plot details that didn't seem realistic to you, or that turned you off? Would you recommed this book to any one else? Be sure to write complete sentences.

Jane Austen’s heroines see the world around them through stages of progression. Through this progression her heroines learn what is best for others as well as themselves. Often the reader views this growth through the heroine’s own thoughts, as in the case of Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price as they take their strolls in order to engage in private reflection. At one point Elinor engages in such reflection by watching Willoughby in which she is “resolved not only upon gaining every new light as to his character which her own observation or the intelligence of others could give her, but likewise upon watching his behavior to her sister with such zealous attention, as to ascertain what he was and what he meant”. Likewise, Elizabeth Bennet gains insight into the true character of Darcy once she lets down her guard and ponders who and what he really is.  Austen makes frequent use of free indirect style in Emma where the reader has the ability to travel inside the heroine’s mind as well as the ability to ascertain what the other characters are thinking. This ability to gain insight into the heroine’s character through the use of her own thoughts is also prevalent in Sense and Sensibility as Marianne wonders before the house, caught deeply in her own thoughts, “Dear, dear Norland… when shall I cease to regret you? When learn to feel at home elsewhere? O happy house! Could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more”.

Austen’s ability to give the readers insight into the heroines’ characters developed over time. In Sense and Sensibility the reader does not have the benefit of reading Elinor’s thoughts, yet her slight change of color alerts the reader to her inner change of emotion. After her first novel, Austen wrote her heroines in a manner that allowed the reader to glimpse what was going on inside of them. Another common trait Austen’s heroines share is the ability to look into their own souls and ascertain the true value of life and of others.

None of the heroines in Jane Austen’s stories has a career outside of finding a suitable marriage. In all of her stories the heroines come from money or marry into it. Because of this, the only real work the heroines perform is that of discovering life as if unfolds before them and how they “fit” into the life chosen. In all of her novels the assumption seems to hold that the ideal marriage is in part a financial merger whereby affluent families are forever joined although her heroines at times fight against the concepts of a loveless marriage.

Jane Austen’s heroines all had the ability to withstand various social pressures in order to hold true to their values. Sometimes their values were a product of their own inward beliefs, at other times (such as in Emma), a third party influenced the moral codes the heroine learned to live by. Jane Austen not only challenged the social rules the rich and affluent of England lived by, she also gave readers great insight into how those with strong moral beliefs backed by courage could change what seemed to be a predetermined destiny.

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