Jane Austen's Novels
"It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do."— Jane Austen
Jane Austen was an English writer most famous for her artistry in harsh and satirical social critique stashed inside romance novels.
She was born at Hampshire on December 16th, 1775. Little is known about her personal life, but she was a daughter of a clergyman, George Austen, and Cassandra Leigh. They had eight children. Jane's elder and only sister, Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, was a watercolorist, and the two maintained close relationships with each other. The sisters were fairly educated, for they both were sent to Oxford to learn from Mrs. Ann Cawley, but they were also homeschooled in drawing and the piano. In 1785, the Austen sisters attended the Reading Abbey Girls' School.
Jane proved herself to be very talented with words: she had shown true brilliance in both prose and poetry. Behind her, she left six exquisite novels that became timeless classics. Four novels were published before her death, whereas the last two were published after she died in 1817, July 18th.
Her literal legacy is a worthy asset to each library.
1. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”— Jane Austen
The novel was published anonymously in 1811. The story-line follows the three Dashwood sisters as they come of age. Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood find themselves on a lookout for a new place to live in with their mother. After their father died, the estate was inherited by their half-brother John, who was a son from Mr. Dashwood's first marriage, so the sisters and their mother had to move away.
While the sisters experience love, joy, tears, romance, and heartbreak, through events and different characters Austen also adds the critics of her society and injustice found within the pillars of humankind.
2. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
"I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding— certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of other so soon as I ought, nor their offenses against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost, is lost forever."— Jane Austen
The novel is classified as a romantic novel of manners and was published in 1813.
The focus is on the personal development of young Elizabeth Bennet, who learns a lot about the quick judgment of other people, pride, fake and true goodness, and kindness. The story-line follows Elizabeth, her four sisters, and their parents, as the girls struggle to get married well because of their situation. Mr. and Mr. Bennet had no male heirs, which meant the girls won't inherit anything after Mr. Bennet's death, and their estate will go to his closest male cousin.
Like always, Austen used the novel to harshly criticize both men and women of her time, and she did it with at the same time sublime and cheerful writing-style.
3. MANSFIELD PARK
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”— Jane Austen
The novel is published in 1814 but didn't receive any public reviews for a couple of years. This time, Austen focused more on hopelessness in poverty, as the story-line follows young Fanny Price.
When she was only ten years old, the family sent her away to live with their rich cousins, because her parents couldn't afford to feed all of their children anymore. At Mansfield Park, young Fanny experiences happiness, grief, love, mistreatment, and everything life and other people offer her as she's growing up.
“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.”— Jane Austen
This novel is published in 1816 and in it, Austen tried out a different approach. She focused on personality treats such as foolishness, arrogance, and overconfidence.
The story-line follows a young woman, Emma Woodhouse. Austen said that with Emma she wanted to create the character only she will like. Emma is shown to be clever and rich, but also selfish, egocentric, spoiled, and too headstrong. She takes pride in being a matchmaker, but she often does more harm than good. The story shows Emma's realization of her own flaws and her growth as a person.
5. NORTHANGER ABBEY
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”— Jane Austen
Published after Jane's death, Northanger Abbey is one more coming-of-age story, and this time a satire of Gothic novels.
The story-line follows one of the ten children of a clergyman, Catherine Morland. She takes pleasure in reading gothic novels, especially Mysteries of Udolpho. Catherine is invited by neighbors to visit Bath with them, where she meets Henry Tilney. Afterward, she is invited to spend a few weeks with the Tilney family and in their home, the Northanger Abbey, Catherine discovers a lot about herself, the world, and maybe solves a mystery, or two, along the way.
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”— Jane Austen
The last fully completed Austen's novel, and like the previous one, published posthumously. Persuasion is considered to be the most mature of all Austen's novels. This time, the story-line is focused on another matter of society: what can a woman do if the society considers her too old to marry?
Anne Elliot's family rents their home to an Admiral and his wife, with hopes that it will help them to get out of debt. Admiral's wife has a brother, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, who turns out to be Anne's ex-fiancee. After a series of encounters, maybe, and just maybe, Anne and Frederick could get one more chance.
All of Jane Austen's novels follow a similar pattern: a young girl as a protagonist, surrounded by different characters, situations, and places. And yet, in every single one of her books, Austen has pointed out different issues of her time and managed to hide a certain kind of critic of her society.
Some like or love her work, while others dislike it or hate it with a burning passion. Whatever our personal views on Jane Austen and her written art might be, two things are sure: she managed to leave an enormous mark in history, and greatly influence countless future generations of writers.
"Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief."— Jane Austen