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Jane Austen's Motherhood

Updated on June 21, 2010

The Beginning of Life

There are only two people that we are almost immediately aware of from birth: mother and father. These are the ones who care for us 24/7 for the first months and years of life. It is nearly impossible to articulate the necessity of these relationships that shape and assist in defining who we are and who is family. And guess who had an interesting and refreshing perspective regarding family, and more specifically, motherhood? Yep, that's right: Miss Jane Austen.

Not only did she write about sisterhood, friendship, and matrimony, she also gave insight into the relationships between mothers and daughters.

 

Despite the fact that she herself was not a mother, she was still a daughter (ha, obviously!). Austen was able to provide perspectives on the bonds between mothers and daughters, ones that we still experience today. There are certain questions regarding the ties between mothers and daughters that she addresses throughout her novels.

What Teenage Girls Aren't Embarassed by Their Mothers?

For the avid Austen reader, you can definitly guess to which book I'm referring. Oh yes, Pride and Prejudice. But really, think about it. I know I can say that there were several times when I was mortified by something my mother said or did, whether it was in public, in front of my friends, or other random situations. Seriously...teenagers in general try to keep their distance far from their parents. It's just part of the growing up and maturing process. It's the same concept that can be applied to the daughters Bennet. The eldest two sisters were humiliated by their mother's behavior in almost every scenario, while the youngest two were just as "silly and stupid" as their mother.

" 'They have none of them much to recommend them,' replied he: 'they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.' ... Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develope. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous, The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news." (Pride and Prejudice, pg 7).

A pretty accurate look into their bonds, I'd say!

What Mother Wouldn't Want Better for her Daughter?

It's just one of those qualities in a parent, the fact that they want everything in the world for their child; they want their offspring to have every advantage and opportunity for happiness and success. Austen was able to capture this idea in the relationship (or lack thereof) between Fanny Price and her mother in Mansfield Park . Her mother married for love, and 'unfortunately', her husband had no money. However, the mother did in fact come from money, and her sisters and their children inherited the fortune. So, at the first chance she had, Mrs. Price sent Fanny to live with her rich cousins in hopes that Fanny would have a happier, more comfortable life.

" 'What if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest daughter, a girl now nine years old, of an age to require more attention then her poor mother could possibly give? The trouble and expense of it to them would be nothing, compared with the benevolence of the action.' Lady Bertram agreed with her instantly. 'I think we cannot do better,' said she; 'let us send for the child.' " (Mansfield Park pg 5).

One of the innate feelings in motherhood is wanting the world for your child, even if that means making incredible sacrifices in order to reach those goals. Austen not only agrees, but writes eloquently on such a notion.

Timeless

How incredible that a lady with no children was able to portray the spirit and maternal instincts without ever experiencing them. It goes without saying that this only further contributes to Jane Austen's skill as a writer, observer, and overall genius, thus making her one of the most well known and loved authors to this day.

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    • Megan Kathleen profile image

      Megan Kathleen 

      7 years ago from Los Gatos, CA

      I think what is most interesting about Austen with relationship to the mother-daughter bond is that she illustrates what such a bond can mean with its absence. As you said yourself, the relationship between Fanny and her mother is barely there to begin with. And any surrogate mothers she may have taken are oblivious or drugged out of their minds (which allows all of the play acting mischief at Mansfield Park to take place). Similarly, the parents in Northanger Abbey are removed from their daughter for the entire novel. Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice are present, but not in any substantial way. The importance of motherhood is most felt in the novels Emma and Persuasion, where the mothers have died before the exposition.

      I think if you were to expand upon your current analysis of what Austen shows of the mother-daughter bond to include what is missing from her characters' lives without the presence of the mother, you could add a lot to your argument here.

    • profile image

      RadioMan86 

      8 years ago

      Well said...

    • profile image

      momsnomdeplume 

      8 years ago

      Most mothers have great dreams and hopes for their daughters and sometimes have a hard time when the daughters become adults and follow different (albeit just as wonderful!) paths. Isn't it interesting that, in the end, many daughters become just like their mothers!

    • profile image

      cheryl mitchum 

      8 years ago

      How true having a daughter myself, always wanting the best for them. wonderful read

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