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Jane Austen's Sisterhood

Updated on June 21, 2010

To say that I'm a Jane Austen fan is a dramatic understatement. I'm an Austen-aholic. I've reread her novels more times than I can count, and have seen every film relating to her; yes, I've watched four versions of "Sense and Sensibility". A junior in high school, I played Elizabeth Bennet from "Pride and Prejudice". Oh, and by the way, I'm currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Have I made my point?

I studied British Literature for two years in college, and guess what was covered during that time? Yep...Miss Austen and her novels. We spent a great deal of time on discussing how her heroines are still popular today, the major and minor plotlines of each book, her views on marriage, and so forth. While I enjoyed all of the above, I have to say one of my favorite themes was Austen's ability to describe relationships between siblings, mainly sisters.

Considering she had seven siblings, one can argue that Miss Austen had good authority and insight into 'siblinghood' and more specifically, sisterhood. It was her relationship with her sister, Cassandra, that helped provide a model for sisters in her novels.

Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the Dashwood sisters in "Sense and Sensibility".
Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet playing the Dashwood sisters in "Sense and Sensibility".

Take, for example, the two most obvious pairs of Austen's sisters : the Bennets and the Dashwoods. Now, the Bennets consisted of five sisters, but it's the eldest two that readers obtain a more detailed view of the relationship, and how said connection shapes and aides the girls into becoming women and friends. They are so much more than sisters: confidants, peers, even counselors...when one has a problem, the other helps. It what makes them one of the most beloved duo in British Literature. The same can be said of the Dashwood girls. Both of them have their separate (yet similar) heartaches, but it's because of these experiences that bring them together in ways they never imagined.


Another's Perspective and Insight

"But she certainly had something to say about sisters. Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion all contain sisters as central figures. And, even though neither Northanger Abbey nor Emma can be called sibling novels, their stories are told with constant allusions to and contexts determined by relations between brothers and sisters...Austen has embraced the idea of using sisters so enthusiastically that she will not stop with the five daughters in the Bennet household but will construct relationships that imitate those of sisters among all women in the book...The novel finally ... asserts universal sisterhood. The few that are "true" are flawed and open to development--a development that will eventually bring them close to the formula for sibling love that will dominate much of the literature of the nineteenth century" (Leila S. May).


Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway starring as the Austen sisters in "Becoming Jane".
Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway starring as the Austen sisters in "Becoming Jane".

Which is Your Favorite Austen Novel?

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I could not have said it any better. But whether it's brother-sister, sister-sister, or even friend-friend, there's no denying that Miss Austen was a 19th century authority on siblinghood...even Each of her novels takes readers into real, in-depth, relatable relationships that captures the attention and heart of anyone who reads them.


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    • profile image

      RadioMan86 7 years ago

      Well written. Enjoyed reading! Keep going!

    • USMCwifey09 profile image

      USMCwifey09 7 years ago

      Thanks for the comments! Much appreciated!

    • profile image

      momsnomdeplume 7 years ago

      I have no sisters by blood, but I am very close to my sisters-in-law. Our bond has been strengthened over so many years that they are truly MY sisters now. Your article is superb and I look forward to the next one!

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 7 years ago from Northern CA

      I enjoyed your hub! The sibling relationships are very interesting and made me yearn for a sister who was also my friend and confidant. Nicely done and I look forward to more!