jane austen research paper

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”-Jane Austen. Jane Austen has the power to say this because she is known as one of the best-loved English novelists (World Book). If a person does not find enjoyment from reading one of her books, they must not truly have read and understood the novel thoroughly. Austen’s work only recently became popular due to reproductions of her work in bookstore and cinema releases of her novels. Readers connect easily with Austen’s work because she wrote about romantic situations, filled with drama, that most people have endured before.

These questions arise though, why did Austen write about such things? Was Jane Austen presented with these same romantic situations in her lifetime? Austen lived a very successful life from the beginning to the end and her name lives on. Jane Austen, born December 16th, 1775, was the seventh child of Reverend George of the Steventon rectory Austen and Cassandra Austen of the Leigh family. Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, England under the reign of King George III, which played a role in the background of her novels she would later write.

She was born into a family where the majority of the children were boys. Austen had one older sister named Cassandra, after her mother. Being the only daughters Jane and Cassandra formed a close relationship. Austen’s siblings were James, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Francis, George, and her younger brother Charles. Jane’s father, Reverend George Austen was the Steventon Parish priest and he also worked as a farmer to help earn more money for his growing family. Reverend Austen was a scholar who encouraged the love of learning in his children (Southam).

The Austen’s were a very close-knit family and Jane formed a very strong bond with her father. Because Reverend Austen was a clergyman and was neither rich nor poor, the Austen family lived comfortable, middle-class lives (Aronson). When Jane and Cassandra were six and eight they were sent to a boarding school for their educations. Their educations consisted of foreign language (mainly French), music and dancing. The girls did not spend long at the boarding school because they both caught typhus, where Jane nearly died, and had to be sent home.

Reverend Austen believed strongly in educating the girls so when they returned home he continued tutoring them and gave them unrestricted access to his entire library. Jane became quite the reader and enjoyed all the new novels of the day. In 1785 the girls were sent to another boarding school for only two years when Reverend Austen withdrew them because he could no longer afford to send them to school. They continued learning at home with their father where Jane learned to play the piano. Jane’s father helped her interest in writing by supplying his books, paper and writing tools to allow her to explore her creative side.

Jane began writing for the entertainment of herself and her family in 1787. She loved to write parodies of sentimental novels, a popular form characterized by melodramatic plots, improbable heroes and heroines of perfect character, and blatant moralizing (Aronson). Between 1787 and 1793 she wrote three manuscript notebooks called Volume the first, Volume the Second, and Volume the Third. Inside these manuscripts were plays, verses, short novels, and other parodies of existing literary forms that Austen had written.

Some short novels she wrote included The Beautiful Cassandra: A novel in Twelve Chapters, Frederic and Elfrida: A Novel, and Love and Friendship: A Novel. She called her notebooks from this time her juvenilia. Jane never married but she did fall in love once. The man was named Tom Lefroy and he was a student studying in London to be a barrister, lawyer. The two spent much time with each other and Jane wrote many letters to her sister Cassandra about their relationship. Austen became engaged to Lefroy, but he broke off the engagement when his family forbade the marriage.

His family thought that Austen’s middle-class status would hold Lefroy back from moving up on the social ladder. While recovering from the heartbreak, Austen wrote the first draft of her second epistolary, written in the form of letters, novel called First Impressions, later renamed Pride & Prejudice. This novel is about a heroine who struggles with her prejudice against a proud, wealthy man who is deeply in love with her. She must overcome prejudice to be truly happy with him, while he must humble himself to be with her. Austen also returned to her work on Elinor and Marianne later named Sense and Sensiblity.

She began working on the novel in 1796 and it was first written as an epistolary novel, but she changed the epistolary point of view to a more traditional 3rd person point of view. When Reverend Austen retired he moved the girls to a new home in Bath. Here it is known that Jane Austen’s most mysterious romantic incident occurred. Jane Austen met a young man who to Cassandra seemed to have fallen in love with Jane; Cassandra later spoke highly of him, and thought he would have been a successful husband. It is thought that they parted, but he made it plain he should seek her out again.

However, shortly after the couple parted the sisters heard of his death. There is no evidence as to how Austen reacted to this, but there is question as to if her later novel Persuasion reflects this experience (Pemberley). Reverend Austen was a big supporter of Jane’s writing and he wrote to offer her first version of Pride and Prejudice, then called First Impressions, to a London publisher for publication but the offer was declined. Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, then called Susan, was sold to the publisher Richard Crosby. He took it for immediate publication, but no publication ever appeared.

Reverend Austen passed away in 1805, this caused the 3 Austen girls to have no source of income. They were helped out greatly by family members and Jane’s brother Edward was able to provide a large cottage in the village of Chawton for his mother and sisters to live in. Their life in Chawton was much quieter than it had been when the family lived in Bath. The family did not socialize with the neighbors and entertained only when family visited. Here Jane was rewarded with a sense of purpose, she began to prepare her novels Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice for publication (Southam).

Her brother Henry encouraged her greatly and she was also prompted by her need for money. Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility which came out anonymously, in November 1811. The same year Austen began to write Mansfield Park, which was finished in 1813 and then published in 1814. By this time Austen was a well established author although she was anonymous. Egerton published Pride and Prejudice in January 1813 and this novel seemed to have been the most popular novel of its season. In 1802 Jane Austen was proposed to by Harris Bigg-Wither, a childhood friend of the family and of Jane’s.

Jane agreed to the marriage because Bigg-Wither was due to inherit a large amount of real estate and he lived very well. Jane, however, did not feel any true feelings of love for him. The only reason she agreed to the marriage was because he provided for her and her family’s future. Once realizing this Austen broke off the engagement the next day. Austen once wrote in a letter to her niece Fanny Knight, “and nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without love—bout to one, and preferring another…”, with such strong feelings on not getting married if there is no affection it was no surprise she changed her mind on the engagement.

Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park quickly followed the publication of Pride & Prejudice in 1813 and all the copies were sold making it the best selling and most profitable of Austen’s works at that time. Looking to make her novels more successful Jane moved from Egerton’s publishing services to a more well known London publisher, John Murray. Murray would be Austen’s publisher until her death. Austen created Emma in between 1814 and 1815 then had it published by Murray. She also wrote a second edition of Mansfield Park and had it published.

It was successful but, not as popular as her first edition Mansfield Park. It actually almost lost the income earned from the first edition when she published the second. At the time of Emma’s publishing the banking venture pursued by Jane’s brother Henry failed, taking along with it the fortunes of brothers Edward, James and Frank. This left the girls in a precarious financial position (Biography). Even with this new development Jane continued writing, more dedicated than before to finish her first draft of The Elliots, later known as Persuasion.

Also at this time Henry took it upon himself to buy back the copyright of Susan from Crosby & Company, he got it back for 10 pounds. In 1816, Jane Austen’s health started to decline, she ignored it though, busy finishing the works she had started. Her health became worse each day and her family began to notice. Jane finally finished The Elliots and was soon working on a new piece titled The Brothers in January 1817. She finished twelve chapters when her illness became more serious and the simple act of walking was a chore for Jane who was 42 at the time. By April, Jane was bed ridden and her work suffered as well.

May 1817, Henry and Cassandra looked to get medical help for Jane. They took her to Winchester to get medical treatment. Austen was diagnosed with Addison’s disease which had no cure at the time. Jane Austen died in Winchester on July 18th, 1817 at the age of 41; she was buried at the Winchester Cathedral. Recent studies by Katherine White of Britain’s Addison’s Disease Self Help Group suggests that Austen likely died of bovine tuberculosis which is a disease now commonly associated with drinking unpasteurized milk (Wikipedia). Not being able to get her final works ublished before her passing, Henry and Cassandra took on the task of getting Northanger Abbey and Persuasion published through Murray. Before these publications Jane Austen was always known as anonymous, and with the publication of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion Henry unveiled Jane Austen as the author. Jane Austen began her life in Steventon, Hampshire, England. Since Austen never married she lived with her parents her whole life, except when she attended boarding school in Oxford and Reading for a short period of time. After Reverend Austen retired the family moved to Bath and Mr. and Mrs. Austen and the girls settled into a new house.

Reverend Austen passed away in Bath and this left the girls to move to Chawton where Jane’s brother Edward provided a large cottage for them to live in. When Jane became ill she was taken to Winchester where she spent her final days. Over her lifetime Austen produced six very successful novels. Her first was Sense and Sensibility (1811) which tells the story of two sisters who represent the traits sense and sensibility. Marianne represents sensibility and must learn how to find sense in order to find marriage. Her sister Elinor represents sense, who must learn to become sensible before she loses her lover, Edward Ferrars, to another woman.

Her second novel Pride and Prejudice (1813) contains two characters who possess the characteristics of pride and being prejudice to others. Elizabeth must learn to overcome her prejudice for Fitzwilliam Darcy from first impressions in order to be with him, while Darcy must overcome his pride to be with Elizabeth. Austen’s third novel and also the most successful Mansfield Park (1814) is also the most serious of her novels. Fanny Price, is a self-effacing cousin who is cared for by the Bertram family. She emerges as a true heroine whose moral strength eventually wins her complete acceptance in the Bertram family and marriage to Edmund Bertram.

Her novel Emma (1815) is the most consistently comic in tone. Emma Woodhouse is a wealthy, pretty, self-satisfied young woman who indulges herself with meddlesome and unsuccessful attempts at matchmaking among her friends and neighbors. Emma finds her destiny in marriage to the mature and protective George Knightly after many humiliating errors. The novel Northanger Abbey (1817) was the least popular out of all her works. Catherine Morland confuses fantasy with reality after reading to many Gothic thrillers. Her mentor and guide is the self-assured Henry Tilney, her husband-to-be.

Jane’s last novel before her death was Persuasion (1817) it tells the story of a second chance. Anne Elliot and Captain Frederic Wentworth have a reawakening of love between each other, which seven years earlier she had been persuaded not to marry (Southam). Out of all her novels the most popular today are Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. In each of her novels a woman meets and marries an eligible man after a series of usually comic difficulties. Overcoming these obstacles helps one or both of the characters gain the self-knowledge required for a happy marriage (Worldbook).

Her minor works included her Juvenilla, the novel Lady Susan, and the fragments The Watsons and Sanditon. Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction gave her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. With her realism and biting social commentary she created her historical importance among scholars and critics (Wikipedia). Jane held the characteristics of a strong-natured and head-strong woman much like the women in her stories. Each character came from different circumstances with different backgrounds, yet they all sought the same thing, true love.

It is ironic that each one of Austen’s novels is about finding true love when she never experienced true love herself. Austen was such a popular author because her repeated fable of a young woman’s voyage to self-discovery on the passage through love to marriage focuses upon easily recognizable aspects of a woman’s life today. Modern critics remain fascinated by the commanding structure and organization of the novels, by the triumphs of technique that enable the writer “to lay bare the tragicomedy of existence in stories of which the evens and settings are apparently so ordinary and so circumscribed” (Southam).

Since Jane’s writing was so popular her novels we’re created into movies and television shows. In 1938 her book Pride and Prejudice was created into a television production and then in 2003 it was again made into a movie. Her novel Sense and Sensibility was made into a movie in 1995 along with Emma the following year. A new movie entitled Jane Austen Handheld has come out this year, 2010, it is Pride and Prejudice in the lens of a fly-on-wall (Bostan). With all these new productions Austen’s work has left the pages and is now on the big screen.

In Austen’s novel Emma she writes, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. ” This quote fits Jane’s life very well because she found so much pleasure in writing about true love but never found it herself, many people did not understand this. She began writing for the amusement of her family and when she furthered her education she began to write more in depth stories that soon turned into her prized novels. It was never known as to the reason why she preferred her novels published anonymously. But, when her identity was accidently revealed her name soon became known throughout history.

Not many authors have matched Austen’s sure eye for human weakness, her affectionate description of everyday life, or her witty and elegant prose (Worldbook). She left us novels that are truly timeless pieces of art. Austen was a respected individual who captured the attention of many people and her name and her works still live on today.

Works Cited

Aronson, Jamie. “Jane Austen. ” Middle Search Plus. EBSCO. Web. 7 Dec. 2010. “Austen, Jane. ” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 1-1. EBSCO. Web. 1 Dec. 2009. “Austen, Jane. ” The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Chicago: World Book, 2002. 892. Print. Boston. Jane Austen Handheld (2010). ” Weblog post. Victorian Works. 2 Mar. 2009. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://fortheloveofjaneausten. blogspot. com/2009/03/jane-austen-handheld-2010. html>. “Jane Austen Biography. ” Jane Austen – Biography, Timeline, Books, Movies, Quotes, Fashion. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://www. janeausten. org/>. “Jane Austen Movies. ” Jane Austen – Biography, Timeline, Books, Movies, Quotes, Fashion. 2008. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://www. janeausten. org/jane-austen-movies. asp>. “Jane Austen Quotes – The Quotations Page. ” The Quotations Page – Your Source for Famous Quotes. 1994. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://www. uotationspage. com/quotes/Jane_Austen>. “Jane Austen Quotes. ” Quotes and Quotations at BrainyQuote. 2001. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/authors/j/jane_austen_2. html>. The Republic of Pemberley. “Jane Austen’s Biography: Life (1775-1817) and Family. ” Jane Austen | The Republic of Pemberley. 2004. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://www. pemberley. com/janeinfo/janelife. html>. Southam, Brian C. “Austen, Jane. ” Middle Search Plus. EBSCO. Web. 7 Dec. 2010. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. “Jane Austen. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 15 Dec. 2010. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Jane_Austen>.

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