Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English author who lived in the late 18th/early 19th century and wrote six novels between 1790 and 1817 before dying at the age of 41. Her books were published anonymously during her lifetime, but she is now one of the most famous authors in the English language.Her novels all follow a similar formula: gentlewoman sooner or later falls in love with man but can't marry him because he's engaged to someone else/he's in love with someone else/etc. Often there are cads to tempt her as well, but ultimately she ends up with the good guy who won't steal all her money and/or abandon her somewhere. There's far more variety among her heroines in terms of personality, though. She specialized in two types: the lively, witty, restless heroine who never fears to speak her mind (Elizabeth Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse); and the quiet, Stoic Woobie who rarely if ever speaks her mind since everyone misjudges her anyway (Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot).Austen is well-known for her wit, satire, and proto-feminism; serious critics consider her to be the equal of Cervantes, Milton, and Shakespeare. Virginia Woolf called her the first truly great female author, and the first good English author to have a distinctly feminine writing style. Rex Stout considered her the greatest English writer ever — yes, even above Shakespeare. Heady praise from a man who claimed to have previously believed that men did everything better than women.Jane Austen also has the distinction of being one of the few classic authors beloved by both the academy (her novels are a popular choice for School Study Media) and popular culture, thanks to the devoted Austen fan community who call themselves "Janeites." Her novels are also frequently adapted into films, especially Pride and Prejudice and Emma (which was also the inspiration for Clueless).The novels, in order of publication:
Persuasion was published posthumously by her brother in a volume along with Northanger Abbey, although the latter was actually the first she completed (Jane herself often wondered why its initial publisher paid for the book and then didn't publish it). There's also lots of juvenalia that she probably didn't expect anyone to read (outside her closest family), let alone publish, and two unfinished novels called The Watsons, which she abandoned in the wake of her father's death, and Sanditon, left unfinished by her own death. Appearances in other media:
From 2017, she will appear on the UK £10 banknote, replacing Charles Darwin.
Her novels provide examples of:
Accomplice by Inaction: Unless the trope is Played for Laughs to highlight the irrationality of the blamer (Mac Donald being blamed by Laura for "not giving a sigh" in her Juvenilia is a prime example), the character victim of this is never too easy to sympathize with in this matter. She seemed to draw a clear line between ignorance and Bystander Syndrome.
As for everyone except Catherine Vernon in Lady Susan, they let the Villain Protagonist hurt and abuse her poor woobtastic daughter, because they are blinded by the mother's charm and filmsy justification, being subjects of her manipulation and sometimes even her Unwitting Pawn... They are mostly forgiven by Frederica and Catherine in the end.
John Dashwood from her work Sense and Sensibility lets his wife walk on his sisters without doing anything, never opposes insults made to them, and never helps them financially. His family despises him for it.
In the unfinished The Watsons, the eldest brother Robert lets his sisters live in relative poverty, except the one he invites home.
Mansfield Park has Edmund, who, despite being a Nice Guy, stands up to Fanny only when his fling Mary Crawford is not concerned. Mary herself is a more clear-cut example, since her answer to her brother's tentative of attracting Fanny's affection to leave her sighing and depressed like her cousins is basically a cross between That Makes Me Feel Angry and "whatever, anyway I told you so and it's not my business.
Betty and Veronica: The heroine always has one of each (except Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, but Marianne still qualifies). As one of Austen's major themes is "bad boys will not change for a girl," she will always choose the Betty. Don't worry about this being a spoiler, though; Austen usually tries to deceive the readers for a while about which love interest is the more "amiable" one. A few of her books also give this dilemma to a male character.
With a perversity of judgement, which must be attributed to his not having by Nature a very strong head, the Graces, the Spirit, the Sagacity, and the Perseverance, of the Villain of the Story outweighed all his absurdities and all his Atrocities with Sir Edward. With him, such Conduct was Genius, Fire and Feeling. It interested and inflamed him; and he was always more anxious for its Success and mourned over its Discomfitures with more Tenderness than could ever have been contemplated by the Authors.
In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy is infatuated with Wickham before she eventually realizes that he is not a decent person and that Darcy, a man she scorned, is a true gentleman. The concept of the first love is also humorously undermined when Mr. Collins rapidly transfers his affections from Jane to Lizzy to Charlotte Lucas.
In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne has to move past Willoughby before appreciating the worth of Colonel Brandon. Prior to the story beginning, Edward Ferrars has imprudently gotten engaged to Lucy Steele, which prevents him from courting Elinor.
These are all examples of First Loves going wrong, but Austen also has a few examples among her repertoire of First Love turning out right:
In Persuasion, Anne's early romance with Captain Wentworth had been scuttled by her family, but she never forgot him. Their paths cross again years later and she has to watch him court others before eventually winning him back.
In Emma, Emma thinks she's in love with Frank Churchill, but when she discovers her true feelings for another she realises she never really loved Frank. Meanwhile, she persuades Harriet that her first love wasn't good enough for her, so Harriet sets her sights on various unattainable men before gratefully accepting her first love's proposal again.
In Mansfield Park, Edmund has to get burned by Mary Crawford before he recognises Fanny's worth and Fanny is almost tempted away from Edmund, her first love, by Mary's brother Henry.
The Friends Who Never Hang: In all of the novels, there is no scene where two male characters are alone together without a woman present. Austen didn't want to speculate on how men behaved on their own. There are two exception to the Jane Austen rule: there's a scene between Sir Thomas and his son Tom early in Mansfield Park, where they discuss Tom's debts, and later one scene with Sir Thomas and his younger son Edmund, talking about the theatre.
Genre Adultery: Mansfield Park — Janeites who pick up this somber tale of psychological abuse, adultery, and family dysfunction that are definitely not played for laughs might think they picked up a Charlotte Brontė novel by mistake.
Happily Married: Usually there is at least one happy couple in each novel to provide a good role model for the young heroine. It's also a trademark of Jane Austen's Foregone Conclusion: all her heroines end up with the right guy and the life promises nothing but a sweet life. They never fall into Sickening Sweethearts category.
Inherited Illiteracy Title: Love and Freindship, a slightly odd example in that the "illiteracy" is Austen's, kept by editors because it's thought to be charming. Hey, she was only fourteen when she wrote it. See also the "Rouge Angles Of Satin" entry below.
Also, the "I before E" rule was a bit looser back in the day.
Marry for Love: Most, if not all, of her protagonists have a desire to do this.
Massive Numbered Siblings: Catherine Morland, Elizabeth Bennet, and Fanny Price have them, as do Emma Woodhouse's nieces and nephews, and Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon.
Missing Mom: A common, though not universal, feature of an Austen heroine. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy and Jane's mother, Mrs. Bennet, is a model of selfish impropriety (despite her legitimately insecure circumstances); Mansfield Park shows Mrs. Price and Lady Bertram as manifestly incompetent; and Lady Elliot from Persuasion and Mrs. Woodhouse from Emma are both dead.
Part of her Signature Style is the great disillusionment characters suffer regarding some part of their worldview or conduct. C. S. Lewis saw this trope as the key to her works.
The major exception to this trope is Anne Elliot, who exchanges it for I Regret Nothing by the end of her story. The change is logical enough, as this trope sums up her inner monologue, more or less, for the first nearly-all of the novel. Elinor Dashwood also seems to be an exception, though since her novel has dual heroines, one who fits and one who doesn't, the exception isn't as obvious as Anne Elliot.
No Accounting for Taste: Several of the marriages portrayed in her novels are not particularly happy. The narrator observes that it's all too often Truth in Fiction. Justified as once you got married in Regency England, there was no turning back.
One Steve Limit: Averted, she reuses several names over the course of her novels, sometimes within the same book. Some examples include:
John: Willoughby, Dashwood & Middleton (Sense and Sensibility), Yates (Mansfield Park), Knightly (Emma) and Thorpe (Northanger Abbey)
Henry: Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility, though he is only a very minor character), Crawford (Mansfield Park), Woodhouse (Emma) and Tilney (Northanger Abbey)
Mary: Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Crawford (Mansfield Park) and Musgrove (Persuasion)
Catherine: "Kitty" Bennet & de Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice) and Morland (Northanger Abbey)
William: Collins (Pride and Prejudice), Price (Mansfield Park) and Elliot (''Persuasion)
George: Wickham (Pride and Prejudice) and Knightly (Emma)
Elizabeth: Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Elliot (Persuasion)
Anne: Weston (Emma), Elliot (Persuasion) and Nancy Steele (Sense and Sensibility)
Jane: Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Fairfax (Emma)
Only Sane Man: Either the heroine, or the heroine and her significant other — hence, the mutual attraction. The exception is Emma, where the heroine herself is wackier than most of her neighbors, leaving this role to Mr. Knightley.
Everyone heroine has at least one. For Marianne, there's Willoughby; for Elizabeth, Wickham; for Fanny, Henry Crawford; for Emma, Frank Churchill; for Catherine, John Thorpe and for Anne, William Elliot.
And to add to the confusion, sometimes in addition to a bad-boy false lead, there will be a GOOD guy alternative for the heroine: for Elinor there is (oddly enough) Colonel Brandon, with characters in the story assuming it, for Anne Eliot there's Captain Benwick, and for Elizabeth there's Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Rouge Angles of Satin: Something of a subversion. Austen's works are littered with what would be considered misspellings by today's standards. What is important to remember is that at the time that she was writing, the English language had not yet been standardized and variations in spelling, punctuation, etc. were widely accepted.
Word of God: The futures of many of the characters, particularly secondary characters, are left unexplained in the stories. Fortunately for us, Austen had several nieces and nephews who were big fans of Aunt Jane's writing, and the letters she wrote to them explain what happened to several characters after the ends of the books.