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Jane Austen Research Papers

Jane Austen research papers are common for American Literature courses because of the influence the famous writer had on illustrating Victorian era sensibilities in her work. Have Paper Masters custom write your research papers on Austen or any of her works.

Jane Austen is one of the most beloved writers of the English language, although the “cult” that has surrounded her writing did not originate until well after the woman’s death in 1817.  Indeed, Austen published only six novels during her lifetime, three of which she had completed decades before their first publication.  Her novelsreflect not only the Georgian Society (the period in English history that preceded the reign of Queen Victoria, who came to the throne in 1835) of the late 18th century/early 19th century but also draw remarkably upon the author’s own life and society. Jane Austen

Jane Austin novels include the following:

The details of Jane Austen’s life remain scarce, despite the plethora of biographies that abound.  In fact, the picture that emerges is one of an upper-middle-class maiden aunt.  One biographer has described the Austen family as an extremely bookish group of folk.  In fact, Austen’s early novels were written entirely for the amusement of her family, to be read around the dinner table, where everyone could laugh at Jane’s clever wit and biting satire of the people with whom the family socialized.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Jane Austen’s novels, in addition to the parallels one finds in them to her own life, is the minute details of the society in which Austen lived.  The novels depict a world of an English society that has faded into the past.  The men and women that appear in her novels are based on her friends, family and neighbors.  These are people of a distinct social class, where the women are encouraged to rise above their station and into a more comfortable life.

The closest person to Jane was her sister Cassandra.  When Jane began formal schooling in 1783, she insisted that her sister accompany her.  By 1787, both Austen sisters had finished with formal education, but were both “finished” by visiting masters, who taught the girls the essential female skills of the time, the same sort of education the Bennet sisters receive in Pride and Prejudice (Hodge, 22).  In fact, Jane and Cassandra Austen received the education preferred by the heroines in Jane’s novels, one of “plenty of books, plenty of time, and plenty of good talk”.

Between 1794 and 1795, Jane wrote a novel she called Elinor and Marianne.  Sixteen years later it would be published as Sense and Sensibility.  The story is one of two sisters (Elinor and Marianne) whose only choice in life seems to be that they must marry a wealthy man.  The girls are economically dependent upon their future husbands, and are encouraged by both their mother and their own circumstances to marry a wealthy man.  Otherwise, the girls would be unable to maintain the style of living that they have become accustomed to.
After the death of their father, the widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are left to the mercy of John Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne’s half brother, who has control of the meager annual stipend their father’s will has provided.  It is interesting to note that the “poverty to which the female members of Henry Dashwood’s family are reduced—£500 per year—is still…£40 more than the provision made for the Austen women after George Austin’s death” in 1805.

Sense and Sensibility depicts a social life that is a collision between linear concerns (finding a husband, establishing a family, securing the future) and later concerns (savoring the present, assuring sociability, behaving justly) (79).  Mrs. Dashwood maintains a belief that her daughters will all marry above their social class and thus be able to keep her in comfort for the rest of her life.  “Some mothers might have encouraged the intimacy from motives of interest…and some might have repressed it from motives of prudence….  But Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration.  A simple thing such as money should never keep young lovers apart, and in the proper marriage, Elinor will be “settled for life”.

Elinor is the representation of Jane, the character who masters the art of living in uncertainty, and whose veil of decorum masks “a generosity of heart, an act of love".  Marianne is more concerned with finding the proper suitor, one whose “person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm”.  This clearly resembles Cassandra, who apparently was the more attractive socialite.  Marianne is emotional and fond of romantic poetry.  She falls in love with Willoughby because he is handsome and gallant and shares the same favorite poet as she.  Because Marianne seems so in love with being in love, she fails to see that Willoughby is a complete rake.  The girls’ overriding concern with finding a wealthy husband leads them to make choices based on economics, before true love finds its way.

Sense and Sensibility is the product of a young girl.  In 1919, George Moore wrote:

Remember the theme if the book is disappointment in love, and never was one better written, more poignant, more dramatic.  We all know how terrible these disappointments are, and how they crush and break up life.

And when are the disappointments in life and love more dramatic that during youth?  Jane wrote about the world and the people she knew, bouncing the work off Cassandra for approval.  Jane and Cassandra during the 1790s were attractive, eligible young ladies of some means who probably spent most of their energy in finding a suitable husband, it was what young lades traditionally did.

Love and money dominate the lives of the women in Sense and Sensibility.  Those who have money and those who greatly desire money give little regard for love.  Their lives and fates in the book are grudging acceptance of the situations around them.  Those who do not have money have the concern of true love in their hearts, while Elinor and Marianne fond both and live happily ever after. 

In 1795, after completing Elinor and Marianne, Jane began a new novel called First Impressions (what would become Pride and Prejudice).  This new novel also involves the problems encountered by two sisters on the way to the perfect marriage.  Where the two sisters in Elinor and Marianne were handicapped by poverty, in First Impressions this is compounded by “the quite appalling vulgarity of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet’s mother and younger sisters”.  Both novels have been described as wish-fulfillment stories, where two sisters marry and live happily ever after.  What does this say about Jane Austen and her world?  As a romantic, she sees a natural justice in the world: that those who are pure and deserving will get what they deserve, and those who are cold will lose.  The women in her time period were completely depended upon men for security.  How they achieved true happiness depended upon having love and money.

In 1795 Cassandra became engaged to Tom Fowle.  So far in life, the two girls had done everything together.  This was a new experience for Jane, for the first time she was taking second place in her sister’s affections, and probably developed jealousy for the relationship (Hodge, 43).  By the following year, Jane was flirting with one Tom Leroy, hoping perhaps for a proposal.  “If Cassandra were determined to be married, it seemed Jane could envisage no better fate than to emulate her in that sacrifice” (Nokes, 148).  In the novel, there is a “curiously repeated situation” in which the heroine “finds herself, against her will, the confidant in a love affair that concerns her all too closely”.

But tragedy struck in the spring of 1797, when Tom Fowle died of fever in the West Indies and was buried at sea.  It is tempting to recognize a graver note in the last chapters of Pride and Prejudice, and explain it by Cassandra’s grief.  What had started out as “an exercise for Jane in the loneliness of Cassandra’s engagement became a distraction for Cassandra in her bereavement”.

Tom Fowle’s death was a profound change for both sisters.  Cassandra eventually decided to remain unmarried, and only Jane was privy to the emotional which led her sister to choose withdrawal.  “Between them there developed an intimacy far closer than the usual bond between sisters,” and Jane chose to also withdraw from the active social scene of balls and flirtation, for Jane Austen never married (Nokes, 171).
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet exclaims: “For what do we live, but to make sport of our neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn?”  Some of her characters “are offered as full and natural portraits of imaginable people; others…are yet presented with such exaggeration and simplification,” but an essential understanding of Jane Austen’s first two novels is remembering one young woman writing of the foibles of the neighbors and reading it to her sister.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Jane Austen’s novels, in addition to the parallels one finds in them to her own life, is the minute details of the society in which Austen lived.  The novels depict a world of an English society that has faded into the past.  The men and women that appear in her novels are based on her friends, family and neighbors.  These are people of a distinct social class, where the women are encouraged to rise above their station and into a more comfortable life.

Was she a moralistic prude or an early feminist? Her life spanned the end of one century and the beginning of another. Her novels that reflected the life of gentry into which she was born were published in the brief span of the Regency period and she died before Queen Victoria was crowned. Austen’s novels, seen by some as shallow tales of girlish gossip, deeply reflect the social mores and culture of the time. For example, Mansfield Park speaks to the issue of a woman’s choice to choose her own husband. By the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, fathers still arranged matches for marriageable daughters. However, a woman was usually not forced to marry a man she loathed. Before marriage, the woman was considered to be a child under the protection of her father. After marriage, she became dependent upon her husband. Because she was not allowed the luxury of putting her own feelings and desires as a priority, it was almost as if she were an inanimate object to be parceled out for safekeeping. Thus, the rebellion of Fanny against Sir Thomas regarding Henry’s proposal of marriage was quite extraordinary. Several of her other novels (Emma and Pride and Prejudice) speak to the practice of primogeniture, the commonly accepted practice of property inheritance wherein the property and goods are passed from father to eldest son. Perhaps, as an author, Austen explored her deeply help convictions through her work in a manner befitting a genteel woman of her time. In the book, A Companion to Jane Austen Studies, a quote from Margaret Kirkham sums it up succinctly, saying, “to become an author was, in itself, a feminist act”(Lambdin 28). Because Austen’s heroes are inextricably bound to their heroines, the characteristics of each man will be seen through the eyes of the women they loved, and will, most certainly, reflect the thoughts and opinions of the woman who gave them life, Miss Jane Austen.

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