the most widely read novelist in English literature.
Her works include
Sense and Sensibility (1811),
Pride and Prejudice (1813),
Mansfield Park (1814) and
Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published in 1818,
and began writing Sanditon, but died before completing it.
her materials are extremely
limited in themselves
Jane Austen herself referred to
her work as
“Two inches of ivory.”
In a letter to her niece, Jane
“Three or four families in a
country village is the very thing
to work on.”
Those three or four families are
the mind we knew intimately –
the landed gentry, the upper
classes, the lower classes, not
only the industrial masses, but
also the agricultural laborers.
Netherfield, Longbourn, Hunsford
Parsonage, Meryton and Pemberley. She
confines herself to the general territory
that she herself has visited and is familiar
settings are the drawing rooms, ball
rooms, parks and gardens of a civilized
Jane Austen‟s limited range
the nature of her novels,
the situation of her time
and her physical
Austen‟s novels are termed as
She belongs to the era when
girls were not allowed:
admission to universities
to intermingle freely with men.
So it is natural that her range
Jane Austen‟s limitations
stemmed from her choice of
Jane Austen‟s themes:
love, marriage and courtship
All of her six novels deal with
same theme of love and
marriages. There are pretty
girls waiting for eligible
bachelors to be married to.
Another limitation :the feminization of her novels. Men do
not appear except in the company of women. Women play a
dominant role in her novels..
She never handles the (conventionally masculine) topic of
Jane Austen believed in:
the organic unity of the society
subordinate passions to the larger purpose of society.
She doesn‟t express impulsive emotions directly.
emotion and strong feelings are brought under the control of reason
There are other emotions, not of course wild and uncontrollable.
Jane Austen successfully gives emotions such as envy, jealousy,
cunning, hypocrisy, pride, vanity and conceit.
Austen avoids the sense of passions described by the romantics,
Because of her classical views of order and control.
Bronte condemns her:
“… the passions art completely unknown to her.”
Everything happens in a civilized manner.
Even the elopement is settled down before
it can cause agitation.
The extreme severity in
“Pride and Prejudice” is elopement of Lydia with Wickham.
“Wickham may elope with Lydia.”
no instance of violence and bitterness.
no frightful or pathetic scenes of death.
A famous critic, Charlotte Bronte believes that
•no concern with the morals and
•she is an author of the surface only:
“Her business is not half so much with the human
heart as with the human eye, mouth, hands and
A. H. Wright
•there is very little religion in her novels.
• Politics is not mentioned too.
•There are no adventures found in her books,
• no abstract ideas and
•no discussion of spiritual or metaphysical issues.
There is no reference to nature itself..
It seems to be an irony of the history of
English literature that when writers like
Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge and others
were discovering the beauties of nature /
outer world, Austen confines her
characters within the four walls of the
drawing room or Hall. . Her heroines also
famously never leave the family. Edward
“She never goes out of the Parlour.”
wonderful capacity for characterization.
truthful and realistic presententation.
sensitive to every small nuance of manner and
behavior and any deviation from the standard.
Wordsworth admitted that her novels were a copy
of life, but the light of imagination was totally
absent so they hardly interested him.
Narrow range of characters :
confined to the landed gentry in the country-side.
Servants, laborers and yeomanry rarely appear
even aristocracy is hardly touched upon.
Critics have complained :
subject matters are very much the same in all her
the same sort of story repeated
No great variety in her characters.
despite such a narrow range. Not a single character has been
repeated in any of her six books.
Macaulay declares that her characters are commonplace, „Yet they
are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were
the most eccentric of human beings.‟
portray various human traits.
Collins doesn‟t commit suicide when rejected by
Elizabeth, settles down with Charlotte.
Darcy shows his unexpected trait after his proposal
The psychological and realistic portrayal of her
characters is what makes them according to
David Ceil, „Three-dimensional‟.
Jane reveals her characters dramatically through
their conversations, their actions, and their
letters or gradually through a variety of point of
view and this adds to their three-dimensional
The characters of Austen frequently gossip with
one another about other characters. This makes the plot even
more gripping, realistic and touching.
And we learn of Elizabeth Bennet:
through her speech and actions and
the remarks of such people as Mr. Darcy, her father and Miss
Collins and Lydia :revealed through their letters.
the vulgarity and stupidity of Mrs. Bennet and
the sarcastic humour of Mr. Bennet revealed in their dialogues.
the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy reveals:
othe antagonism between the two
othe intelligence of the both.
All the information about Darcy is proved through
Elizabeth’s point of view. Hence, the reader looks at
Darcy through Elizabeth’s eye
Lady Catharine balances with Mrs. Bennet.
Wickham serves a contrast while Bingley a foil to
Darcy. Elizabeth with Jane. Jane Austen‟s major
characters are intricate; however, there are
some failings. Darcy is real and convincing, but
appears only in scenes with Elizabeth. The minor
characters are usually flat but they also develop
when we meet them. Thus each of these wide
range of characters are multi-dimensional with a
mix of the good and bad qualities, exhibiting
strong individual idiosyncrasies and traits, at the
same time typical of universal human nature.
Off stage affairs
In Jane Austen's works there is hardly
any male sexual predation or assaults
on female virtue -- a favorite device of
novelists of the period.
The only possible case is the affair
between Willoughby and the younger
Eliza Williams in Sense and Sensibility
And finally, whatever the complex of
motives involved in the Mrs. Clay-Mr.
Elliot affair in Persuasion it can hardly
be regarded as the seduction of a
female by a sexually predatory male.
In Jane Austen's last incomplete
fragment, Sanditon, it is true that Sir
Edward Denham likes to think of
himself as a predatory male, but he
is described as such an ineffectual
fool that it is difficult to believe that
he would have accomplished any of
his designs against the beauteous
Clara Brereton, if Jane Austen had
finished the work.
Note that all these affairs take place
entirely "off-stage" (except for a few
encounters of flirtation between
Maria Bertram and Henry
Crawford, long before she runs away
with him), and are not described in
No one dies "on stage" in one of her novels, and almost no one dies
at all during the main period of the events of each novel (except
for Lord Ravenshaw's grandmother in Mansfield Park and Mrs.
Churchill in Emma.
The illnesses that occur Jane's in Pride and Prejudice and Louisa
Musgrove's in Persuasion are not milked for much pathos
(Marianne's in Sense and Sensibility is a partial exception, but
Marianne is condemned for bringing her illness on herself).
The only person who actually
faints in one of Jane Austen's
novels is the silly Harriet Smith of
Emma .On three occasions, Fanny
Price of Mansfield Park imagines
to herself that she is on the point
of fainting, and once Elinor
Dashwood thinks that her sister
Marianne is about to faint, but
neither Fanny or Marianne ever
In her novels there is no violence (the closest approaches are
the duel between Colonel Brandon and Willoughby in Sense and
Sensibility, in which neither is hurt, and the indefinite
menacements of the Gypsies towards Harriet Smith and Miss
Bickerton in Emma, and no crime (except for the poultry-thief
at the end of Emma.
She never uses certain hackneyed plot devices than
common, such as mistaken identities, doubtful and/or
aristocratic parentage, and hidden-then-rediscovered wills. In
Emma, Harriet Smith's parentage is actually not very mysterious
(as Mr. Knightley had suspected all along).
few English writers ever had so narrow a
field of work as Jane Austen. her works have
an exquisite perfection that is lacking in
most of our writers of fiction. within her own
field she is unequalled. Her characters are
absolutely true to life, and all her work has
the perfection of a miniature painting.
“Were she alive today, Jane Austen would be
astonished to see that she is now more
popular than she was during and after the
years she wrote her great novels.” (Carrigan)