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Jane Austen Essay

1987 words - 8 pages

The Power of WomenFew women dared to defy societal conventions in the 18th century and remain single despite willing suitors. Jane Austen's willingness to do so showed that she was willing to challenge the role of women in society and culture. In her books she demonstrates this subtly, with characters that aren't conventionally feminist, but express the independent ideals of women. She accomplishes the subtlety through effective portrayal of specific areas of women's lives including money, marriage, and societal prominence. Jane Austen's portrayal of women in the 18th century shows women who act according to the social quota, but who also hold strong independent qualities and promote female rights.During the late 18th century, women suffered from getting ahead (Sanborn 1). Even if a woman became rich, her money would usually revert to her husband when she married. If something happened to a woman's husband she would more than likely be left with nothing. However, Jane Austen's characters show themselves competently different in two ways: ability to make do without large sums of money and capable of managing money. Jane Austen shows that money is not the end all objective for happiness. She shows this primarily through the novel Emma. In Emma Austen's main character, Emma, starts out trying to help her friend Harriet achieve money to be happy (Emma 70). With this goal in mind, Emma gets Harriet to refuse her true love, Robert Martin, because he is too poor. She instead attempts to have her marry the wealthy Mr. Elton because she thinks that will bring Harriet happiness. After everything goes wrong, and Harriet marries Robert Martin anyway, Emma realizes that there is more to life than money and social class. Even though she took for granted the true meaning of money, Emma still finds a way to control her money throughout the book (Sanborn 2). In contrast to women of her time, she takes personal control of much of her father's money. She takes in Henrietta, and does everything possible to elevate her status (Sanborn 1). She takes active interest in making things happen, and uses her means to accomplish them. Jane Austen also shows that it is possible for women to manage money, even when they don't have much. In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters are forced to economize and live on a small sum, and manage to make due (Sanborn 2). Typical of Jane Austen, she does not show her characters going completely far, from the norm of society however; she does show them as having independence when it comes to money. She portrays her women as normal people doing the best they can with the assets they have to influence their surroundings. This theme carries over into perhaps the most important female financial process of the 18th century: marriage.While marriages were not completely arranged by the late 18th century, fathers had a great deal to say about whom their children married (Garret 1). Marriages were still of social convenience and...

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