Discuss Reading In One Or More Novels By Jane Austen:

2375 words - 10 pages

Reading in Jane Austen novels is one aspect that is held in common with all of her heroines, and seems to form part of Austen's ideals regarding an admirable heroine. Her characterisations are by no means formulaic, yet similar concerns about class, marriage and the status of women are to be found in each of her books. Reading is presented as being a n escape from the confines of the female role, an expansion of mind that is necessary for character formation. Each of Austen's heroines reads ti some extant, and the act of reading, and educating oneself is seen as most powerful when placed within the female realm. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Bennet constantly retreats to his library, where he can escape his wife and the world outside, and it is due to Elizabeth's active reading and intelligent interaction with texts that allows the pair such a special bond. Jane Austen encourages the idea that reading should exist for a purpose, and that women need to read in order to be able to assert their rights and intelligence, and be able to be strong as any man in her story lines. Reading produces strong, independent women, who are only involved in such stories about society and the politics of the everyday because it allows them to have a "real" and applicable context for readers of the time.Through reading, Austen is presenting rather radical ideas about the nature of education and gender, and that reading, while seen as a rather passive occupation, has the power to change futures and can form the crux of a quiet rebellion for her female leads. strength of character and ultimately the success of marital relationships and partnerships do seem to lend a certain significance to reading. I once again turn to Pride and Prejudice for a quotation which summarises how Darcy places such importance on being "more substantial....in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.". The most appealing male leads all seem to have a respect for a woman of educated standing. Reading is therefore presented as a positive and important part of a woman's education, which is necessary in order to be able to form fulfilling relationships, and a more equal balance between the roles of the male and the female. Reading can be seen to help to elevate one's place in society, and can make a female more attractive to the male leads, which undermines the idea of subservience in females and being of the same class level as being the most important aspects of a suited match. In Persuasion, we see Anne being mentioned on several occasions in words of high praise, and one occasion where the male and female roles are reversed through the act of reading and knowledge is in Chapter XIV, where Charles speaks of Captain Benwicks feelings towards Anne. He says that:It is a very clear thing that he [Benwick] admires you exceedingly. His head is full of some books that he is reading upon your recommendation, and he wants to talk to you about them; he has found out something or other in one of...

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