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Senior Paper

979 words - 4 pages

Jane Austen’s books Pride and Prejudice and Emma are linked in their timeframe. Austen lived in the 1800s and many of her books represent society in this time frame. Their characters are confined by normalcy and restricted by their surroundings. Mentally they are narrow minded, and society holds power to decide what class they can be in.
Austen’s books Pride and Prejudice and Emma are created from her observations and portray the average lifestyle and struggle to define oneself. She observes three things: character, class, and feminism. It is almost as if the books take place in a vacuum where nothing interferes with the characters. "It depends not on any on any of the common resources of Novel writers, no drowning’s, nor conflagrations, nor runaway horses, nor lapdogs & parrots, nor chambermaids & milliners, nor reencounters and disguises" (Milbanke 54). Without usual dramatic plot points, the climax relies on the growth of characters and their change in status.
In the beginning, the reader is entertained with the thoughts and commentary of the young eligible main characters Elizabeth and Emma. Fellow author of the era Bronte comments her distaste with bored state the main characters are in for the majority of the books. "I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses"(Bronte 55). As if trapped behind a glass wall the main characters look on the rest of the world. Admittedly reading about a character watching and observing gets boring for the reader but this period contains important personal growth for Emma and Elizabeth.
Manners are utilized by the society and are accepted ways of letting others know their place. “For most of the other characters, though, [fashionable manners] enforce social boundaries that remain in place even if they include the vain and foolish and exclude those who are in truth far worthier” (Haggerty 82). Haggerty points out the negative impact of manners are that people who are underserving or unqualified for their position in society get to keep it based on their manners and lineage. For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Lydia outranks her sisters after eloping, but she is undeserving of this status. The very marriage status that improves her rank shames her family. Also in Emma, Emma convinces Harriet she deserves more but lacks money and quality of manners.
This creates an intense focus on who's who in the class system; which is the major conflict in both books. Some characters are dull and single-minded in their goals to change stations. “The book's most obviously ridiculous characters, who are all rendered absurd by their attentions to the slightest change in the social climate, and are always calculating how far ahead or behind they are in an interminable competition waged with their neighbors” (Haggerty 65). Mrs. Bennet is a great example of this; she becomes very competitive with her neighbor Mrs. Lucas to marry her...

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