Jane Austen work is treasured mainly as a guidebook to fashionable life during the Regency period, but her own vision of her task was completely different. She was a determined and strict moralist she was highly conscious of human failings and wanted, through her work of literature, to make people more respectable and more reasonable, more dignified, and more sensitive to the needs of others- hence, more charitable.
Born in 1775, Austen grew up in a small village in Hampshire, where her father was the Anglican rector (A cleric in charge of a village in the Episcopal Church). Jane Austen came from a family with high social status but had a low income. She wasn’t married but on many occasions, she was tempted to. Her work of literature above all else was her chosen weapon to improve humanity she completed six novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
Through these pieces of literature, she tries to teach us lessons that may improve our day to day lives through her novels; Lessons that may now seem natural to us but were very much alien during her time. In “Pride and Prejudice” Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet start off hating each other and then gradually come to the realization that they are in love. They make for a great romantic couple, in almost every eye that falls on them. But why is it, that they are so right for each other? Is it due to the cliché of hate at first site then gradual understanding of one another? Austen makes it very clear about the reason in her novel; it is the reason that we rarely tend to think of much today. Each can teach and develop their partner.
Darcy starts of feeling superior because he has more money and higher status. Then, at an extremely key moment, Elizabeth judges his arrogance and pride to his face. This sounds unpleasant, but later on, in the novel, he admits that her scolding was well needed and well deserved. He says,
“I cannot be so easily reconciled to myself. The recollection of what I then said, of my conduct, my manners, and my expressions during the whole of it, is now and has been many months, inexpressibly painful to me. Your reproof, so well applied, I shall never forget: ‘had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.’ Those were your words. You know not, you can scarcely conceive, how they have tortured me;–though it was some time, I confess, before I was reasonable enough to allow their justice.” Austen 214.
“You taught me a lesson hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled.” Austen 215
They fit each other exceptionally well because by here simplicity and kind heart, his own mind might have been softened. His manners greatly improved. She as well would have been given a chance to live through his experience. By Gathering from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she would have received an advantage far greater in importance.
In recent years we tend to think of love, as the total liking or acceptance of somebody, respecting what they are and why they are the way they are- no question. What Austen here tries to say is that the right person for anyone has got to be able to help one get to overcome their own failings. Help them become more mature, kind and honest, and return we must do the same for them.
Darcy and Elizabeth improve one another. They are perfect for each other due to their imperfections. This is exactly why the novel is recognized for its beautiful construction. The novel illustrates a basic truth, one that is rarely spoken of and greatly required: a successful marriage is one that helps develop character and educates one another.
Although Jane Austen’s work has been always under different interpretation, these interpretations could be narrowed down to merely to significant ideas, 1) women’s haggard rights, as well as 2,) the true values of the elite English society, and its effect on the working class in Europe.
The purpose of this study is to look at Jane Austen’s work under a different light, one that has not been commonly studied. Jane Austen has been represented by most feminist studies as an intentional or unintentional voice for woman’s frustration during the Regency period. Of course, when one first reads the novel, this is one of the main themes that one results. I do not mean by this study to suggest that this is not an appropriate question to ask. I wish to suggest that there might be other ways to study her work without the restraint of the eighteenth-century masculine society.
During the eighteenth century, the English society was leaning more towards male welfare as their entail laws were mainly focused on protecting the interests of male heirs; at the same time preventing women from gaining liberty and control of their lives. Their men were chosen for them, and they were usually higher in status and well-off. That is how a women’s happiness was calculated, it was merely the fortune of a man that represented the liveliness of a household.
Jane Austen, being a woman, would most likely write about the injustice of society – Men – towards women. But not only does she cover female dissatisfaction and the unfairness that is the English society in her novels she also focuses on the rejection of marriage and love due to wealth and fortune. Not by women but men alike.
This representation of men being as money starved as women during that era gives them almost the same amount of vulnerability as women during the 1800’s. Men are usually portrayed as independent and powerful figures in almost every single novel written during that period of time, and rightfully so. It wasn’t merely an exaggerated depiction of male empowerment; it was the reality that people of that time truly experienced.
What could Jane Austen have uncovered in her novels that could shine a light on the true vulnerability of the male sex? What could women be able to uncover that man couldn’t hide or destroy?
Marriage for love and marriage of convenience is what most of this novel revolves around. The marriage of convenience was common in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century for understandable reasons.
A woman had no education any understanding of how to provide for herself in a useful way and if she were capable of coming up with a useful idea, then she will face multiple hardships in order to make it a reality. This issue is one that still stands today; the ratio of billionaire men to women is 8 to 1. It not because women lack in ideas, but it is because of the chances that are uncommon for women, and are supplied in excess for men. And therefore, a woman was forced to resort to the only form of stability they could get. That stability was, of course, securing oneself to a wealthy male that could provide for her.
Women were underprivileged in many aspects of life. They were not permitted to inherit any money from their passing relatives.
“The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure.” Austen 1
That was the state that the Dashwood sisters were left in after their fathers passing. Their brother inherited the money and kindly provided for his sister’s as requested by his father- for the few months; he wasn’t significantly affected by his wife.
At the start of the novel, we meet our first male character that has been able to increase his income by marrying Mrs. Fanny Dashwood. Mr. John Dashwood
“He was, in general, well respected” Austen 2
was intestinally willing to provide for his female relatives and was willing to increase their thousand pound inheritance with another thousand in order for them to live a fairly comfortable life, but here is when the genius of Jane Austen appears she introduces Fanny as,
“Mrs. John Dashwood was a strong caricature of himself;—more narrow-minded and selfish.” Austen 2.
Mr. John Dashwood had merely two reasons why he chose to support his relatives. It was, of course, his father’s dying wish, and secondly, it would make him look far more kind and considerate to the rest of society. Helping his female relatives will prove to the rest of the world that he was truly generous and noble.
“Yes, he would give them three thousand pounds: it would be liberal and handsome!” Austen 2.
That simply vanishes when his wife moves in and gives him multiple absurd reasons why giving his relatives any money is a bad decision, to begin with. Not only does she treat them like visitors in their own home but she also tries to remove their only sort of income that might keep them from leading especially difficult lives in an English society where a woman’s’ only income was offered to them by a man.
As much as women were represented as weak and unable to fend for themselves, fanny almost disobeys these rules. The reason: she has finally been capable of gaining what a woman needs to survive back then and that is marriage. Once a woman has successfully acquired a husband, she can maneuver his life choices as she pleases. Women marry to gain peace of mind, and when men do they lose a piece of their mind. Jane Austen carefully gave us a simple description of both Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood. The reason was mainly to show the reader which of these characters overrules in this sort of relationship. Ironically the weak simple woman appears to gain hold of far more power than the man who presumably is the strong and independent figure.
Austen is quite known for being extremely frank about money. In “Pride and Prejudice” money plays an important role in the center plot of the novel. In the novel, Jane Austen explains that Mr. Bingley has an approximate income of 4000 pounds a year- that quite a lot- while Darcy has more than twice the amount, at an annual income of 10,000 pounds, which converted to today’s money, would be 339600 pounds.
It is rude and disrespectful to ask or speak of income in the present day. Rather than looking at it as ill-mannered to discuss money-related matters, Jane Austen views it as an especially fit topic for serious literature. Oscar Wilde agrees with this, he says,” when I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.” As much as she presses on its importance, she still aims at two big mistakes people make when they are presented with money. In “Mansfield Park” Julia Bertram gets married to Mr. Rushworth- the richest character in all of Jane Austen’s novels. But they are miserable together and their marriage rapidly falls apart. The mistake that was presented in this relationship was how over impressed with the riches each character was. Being over impressed by money can result in the breaking of a relationship, as the bond was not made under our previously stated requirements (maturity and education.)
But equally, Jane Austen is convinced that it is a grave mistake to get married without a sufficient amount of money to get along with life.
In “Sense and Sensibility, at a certain point in the novel, it seems that Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferras- whom both requirements of maturity and education are present between them- will not be able to get married. As much as they are suited for each other emotionally, it is not enough to live comfortably.
“They were neither of them quite enough in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds-a-year would supply them with the comforts of life.” Austen 129
Elinor takes a view of the world that is especially true; she states that wealth has much to do with happiness. By wealth she doesn’t mean great luxury, she merely wants what is enough to get by. She just wants to live sensibly with proper comfort. A marriage that doesn’t have enough to lean on is a recipe for disaster. It is a lie that will have grave consequences in the end.
“Strange if it would!” cried Marianne. “What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?”
“Grandeur has but little,” said Elinor, “but wealth has much to do with it.” Austen 25
Austen shows us an elusive but crucial attitude. Money is can be extremely important in some aspects, but unimportant in others. We can’t rule it out of the equation that leads to a healthy relationship. It is almost like saying, “Money is not important unless there is not much of it.”
We also meet a different side to this argument with Elinor’s sister Marianne. Most whom have read this novel will label her as unreasonable, passionate, and mostly sheltered away from the truth of the world. But a certain conversation within the novel proves her being much more than the romance crazed women we were given an impression of. She speaks to her sister about what amount of money would make a proper and suitable life. She says,
“Elinor, for shame!” said Marianne; “money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.” Austen 25
When looking at her morals, or opinion of money being related to one’s happiness, it almost seems childlike. For every adult understand that money has much to do with one’s happiness, health, and wellbeing. She has an outtake about life, which someone with little to no understanding of money has. She has been sheltered for the most her life and had a tiny glimpse of what It feels like to not own in excess. While reading the novel, Elinor- being the eldest- must have learned far more about the importance of money and the effect of social status in society, and how it has a great effect on one’s happiness. It then makes sense why Marianne has a far more passionate side than her sister Elinor; it’s due to the fact that she has not been introduced to society, therefore, has not been tainted by its dreadful reality.
Elinor seems to know this for a fact; she has realized that Marianne is an adult woman with a child’s expectations towards life. She realizes the conversation she has with her sister that Marianne might very much hold noble ideas, but they all come at a cost, an expensive one.
“Your ideas are only nobler than mine. Come, what is your competence?”
“About eighteen hundred or two thousand a year; not more than that.”
Elinor laughed. “Two thousand a year! One is my wealth! I guessed how it would end.” Austen 25
The irony of the statement presented is a noticeable one; Marianne seems to give an impression of not giving much acknowledgment to money for her happiness. But what when asked what the minimum amount of money she would be willing to live on in order to live a life of love and romance, she chooses an amount that is rather a lot compared with today’s currency.
Here Jane Austen represents us with two characters, whose differences might be evident at first but will blend together to make a single opinion and that is Jane Austen’s piece of mind represented to us in her piece of literature. Jane Austen uses these two characters, giving each of them different qualities, and morals. But both in the end give the reader the same conclusion. Money has much to do with happiness. A life with no financial stability will lead to difficulty, irrespective of the amount of love one has.
In sense and sensibility, both man and women have realized this truth and each act in their respective nature.
“He is very far from being independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.” Austen 14.
Here we finally see an aspect of the novel that does not present itself until further study is applied. Both man and women are affected by their financial status. Edward Ferrars is an excellent example of male vulnerability in the novel. Jane Austen created a character that has almost no control over his life or the divisions made that will affect it. He starts off with the rule of his overbearing sister, Fanny, and his highbrow mother.
He starts off in the novel as a man with no purpose to serve, for his mother has made him choose leisure over the profession. He has answered to his family’s every whim and command. This is extremely ironic; men are almost always the leading role in society. When reading Jane Austen’s novels, she grants the reader an inside view of our world and lets them have a glimpse of what may lay behind the curtain.
He defies them once a long time ago, to be engaged to Lucy, who turns out to be an exact replica of his mother and sister.
Edwards’s falling for Elinor was no mistake. He has been under the command of overbearing and manipulative females. He finally meets a kind-hearted, gentle natured woman, who does not wish to control him but to educate and be educated by him. He is one of the many characters we know of whom may cause trouble here and there but we never can blame them alone for their shortcomings. Despite being a man of wealth, he has no control of what life he will lead, and Elinor changes that. He is not present for most of the novel, but when he does return to the front line we do notice a change in character, he develops slowly but gradually behind the scenes.
In conclusion, my study on the different ways the vulnerability of the sexes is portrayed in Jane Austen’s novels can also draw out certain similarities. Two lives deemed different due to biological change can all be effected by social and economic standing with the same intensity. This will successfully show the stylistic device, Irony in this case and its ability to exhilarate or tranquil a climax, as well as its ability in the process of character growth which Jane Austen focuses on intensely in her novels. Through the interpretation of the literature a light is shed on the pessimistic aspect of our daily lives and our false hope in a dream that can distinguish and differentiate love and emotion from the materialistic and economic aspect of life, as well as our journey in search of a partner that we can share both heart and mind without the stamp of social status and income in the way of a content relationship. In our present-day society Jane Austen has been made into the symbol of the pen fighting for females and their equal standing to men without interpreting her representation and her own understanding of our broken and enslaved society by the green dollar bill. This can be a serious factor which aids in the miss interpretation and understanding of its linguistic importance. Her extraordinary use of language to aid in the process of character development and social and moral understanding. As well as her ability to join the importance of income and maturity rather than distinguishing them as a single aspect that on its own can produce a healthy and stable relationship.