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Instead of being written 200 years ago, world famous English author Jane Austen’s novels have been remained as the most desirable and in the most respectable position amidst the English Romance stories. Today we’ll talk about the highly popular fictions of Jane Austen and their impact on the readers, even in this century.
Born on 6th December, 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire in England as the seventh child of Cassandra and George Austen, Jane Austen though was not extensively known in her own time, and her completed novels, numbering 6 only, have been known as the epitome of English Romance novels, one of a kind, even in today’s world. Her novels, started to gain popularity after 1869 and presently, those have been turned into an excess of movies, motion pictures, miniseries, not to mention the books translated in different languages. With the release of the novels entitled, ‘Sense and Sensibility’(1811), ‘Pride and Prejudice’(1813), ‘Mansfield Park’(1814), ‘Emma’(1815), she achieved the status of a published writer, She wrote another two novels, titled, ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ which got published in 1818, posthumously. Austen began another novel, titled ‘Sanditon’ but she died before completing it. Austen’s novels portray very realistic and clear picture of women’s position in the contemporary society who used to have no choice but to be dependent upon the social norms of marriage or else had to spend their entire lifetime in spinsterhood. Her works seem to be part of the transitional phase from 18th to 19th century. Her works were published anonymously at first but the 1869 publication of ‘A Memoir of Jane Austen’, written by her nephew introduced her to the world. The novels are known for the excessive commentary on the vices of social norms, realistic portrayal of the society along with its inhabitants, excellent charms of wit and irony and of course for the romantic plots which gave birth to the emerging fans of Jane Austen, the Janeite, as they prefer to call them, in the 20th century.
Set in southwest England, London and Kent between 1792 and 1797, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ narrates the life of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood, the hardships of their life and their gradual emergence from those hardships. Mr Dashwood dies leaving behind his 3 daughters Elinor, Marianne, Margaret and his second wife only with a small income. As per the contemporary rule, the entire property along with the house in Norland Park pass to John, son of the first wife of Mr Dashwood who, following his wife Fanny, provokes the girls to leave Norland Park and to stay in a small cottage in Devonshire, near the house of Sir, John Middleton, the cousin of Mrs Dashwood. There they met Colonel Brandon who becomes attracted to Marianne due to her sweet nature, skills in piano and innocent beauty. Marianne, on the contrary became attracted to Willoughby whom she accidentally met and they fall in love with each other. However, gradually when Marianne came to London she came to know that Willoughby has cheated on her and became heart-broken. Meanwhile Lucy Steel, one of the Steele sisters meet Elinor and informs her about her love affair with Edward Ferrars, brother of Fanny, whom Elinor met at Norland Park and secretly began to love him. Gradually Marianne accepts Colonel Brandon’s love for her and Edward reveals to Elinor that Lucy has married his brother Robert Ferrars which makes Edward free to marry Elinor. Thus the novel ends with a happy note.
Austen began writing this novel under the title ‘First Impressions’. This narrates the story of the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. Mr Bennet’s estate is entailed to a distant cousin as per the contemporary rule, so all Mrs Bennet can think about, is getting her daughters married as soon as possible to prevent them from leading a life of spinsterhood. Therefore when wealthy Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy arrive in the neighbourhood Mrs Bingley doesn’t let go any opportunity, even going to the far extreme level which causes embarrassment. Though Elizabeth, the most intelligent and charming, sensible protagonist finds Darcy very arrogant, haughty at first gradually they come closer to each other and understanding the essential goodness of each other’s character they fall in love with each other and get married. Jane also gets married to Mr Bingley despite the intervention of his sisters who haven’t liked Jane from the beginning.
According to the story Fanny Price, the protagonist comes to live with her uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas, Lady Bertram as her own family is very poor. Her other aunt Mrs Norris abuses her but though neither Maria, Julia nor Tom, Fanny’s cousins love her, Edmund, Tom’s brother is very much affectionate towards her. During the absence of Sir Thomas, Maria, Julia becomes attracted towards Henry Crawford, the brother of local minister’s wife and Henry’s sister Mary towards Edmund though Edmund’s intention of becoming a clergyman doesn’t appeal to her. Edmund confides in Fanny about his love for Mary without knowing that Fanny loves him deeply and sincerely. Meanwhile when Fanny refuses Henry when he proposes her, Sir Thomas sends her to her parent’s house. However when Tom falls ill she comes back to Mansfield Park and consoles Edmund and gradually he marries Fanny while the rest of the family cast out Maria, Henry and Mary due to their immoral nature.
This novel narrates the life of Emma Woodhouse. Emma is intelligent, beautiful, charming but perhaps too much preoccupied to check herself before meddling in other’s lives. Her headstrong, self-satisfied attitude makes her hurt to the people below her social standard like Jane Fairfax. The story deals with the details about how does she overcome her pride and regains the confidence and love of others, especially George Knightley and gets married to him.
This is the story of Catherine Morland who has an extreme interest in the gothic novels by Ann Radcliff, especially, “Mysteries of Udolpho”. She tends to visualise the world through her readings of the gothic novels and fantasize about that which leads to her downfall. Gradually, she overcomes this excessive attraction and reconciles with Henry Tilney, to marry him.
“Persuasion” narrates the story of 27 years old Anne Elliot and her misery in the hands of her snobbish father Sir Walter and selfish, proud sister Elizabeth who didn’t let her to marry handsome young naval officer Frederick Wentworth as he didn’t have much wealth then. Presently Anne meets him again. Being unable to forgive her for rejection while he publicly declares his wish to marry any suitable young woman, secretly he still craves for her. The story depicts how Anne and Frederick reconcile at the end after a series of incidents take place.
Austen’s novels gave birth to the fandom community called ‘Janeites’. Various film adaptations have been made of those books throughout the years, especially the BBC miniseries. There are various platforms for discussions like the ‘Jane Austen societies’, ‘Austen Blog’ and so on. Various scholarly articles have been attributed to her.
Austen is perhaps one of the early precursors of Feminist theory who depicts the condition of women most realistically. The women folks of the society were the most neglected one and they had no choice but to be dependent upon the norms of marriage in order to be secured financially. Of course they didn’t have much choice about the person with whom they’re supposed to get married, due to their social condition. Writing was not considered as a mode of earning, especially for women. Apart from various other reasons, most importantly, Austen is remembered till now as she showed the courage to defy society through her mighty pen.