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Creator / Jane Austen


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 are wildly sarcastic in nature, and 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 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).

She ended at #70 in One Hundred Greatest Britons.

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:

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.
  • Arranged Marriage: As an obstacle to be overcome.
  • 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.
  • The Casanova: A standard Austen antagonist.
  • Character Development: In addition to heroines like Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, and Catherine Morland growing up and changing some of her underlying views about the world and herself, each heroine's significant other usually needs to change before they can live Happily Ever AfterEdward Ferrars needs to grow a spine and stand up to My Beloved Smother (which he does), Edmund Bertram needs to grow a brain and stop being duped by The Vamp (which he does), and Mr. Darcy needs to stop being such a brooding loner and start being a gentleman (which... doesn't matter to modern female readers anyway).
  • Clingy Jealous Girl
  • Conversational Troping
  • Daddy's Girl
  • Dances and Balls
  • Deadpan Snarker: Her narrative persona as well as many characters.
    • P&P's famous "A truth universally acknowledged" opening line being a prime example.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In The Jane Austen Book Club, the characters all participate in storylines which deliberately call back to one of her novels - sometimes with bonus crossover craziness as well!
  • Double In-Law Marriage
  • Draco in Leather Pants: An in-universe example with Sir Edward Denham in Sanditon:
    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.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: "Janeites".
  • First Love:
    • An important element in the novels of Jane Austen, who often uses the First Love trope often under the role of Wrong Guy First:
      • 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.
    • Austen also has a few examples 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.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The lovers will get together and live Happily Ever After. The question is, how? (And as shown above, which lovers?)
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Mansfield Park is the only Jane Austen novel to contain scene where two male characters are alone together without a woman present — Sir Thomas and his son Tom discuss Tom's debts, and later, Sir Thomas and his younger son Edmund talk about the theatre plans. Austen didn't want to speculate on how men behaved on their own.
  • 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.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Perhaps most evident in her unfinished novel The Watsons, but seen at times in the others as well.
  • Gold Digger: Common in her fiction: often male, often subtle enough that modern readers might not even notice.
  • Gossipy Hens: Sometimes portrayed sympathetically.
  • Greed
  • 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.
  • The Hedonist
  • Hidden Depths: First impressions are wrong more often than not.
  • Historical Beauty Update: She's played by Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane.
  • Hypocritical Humor
  • I Gave My Word: Engagements are a serious promise. Jilting someone is becoming The Oath-Breaker.
  • 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.
  • Lemony Narrator
  • Literary Mash-Ups: As of Sept. 2010, every one of her novels except Persuasion has followed the lead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  • Love Dodecahedron
  • Love Triangle
  • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • 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.
  • The Noun and the Noun: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, she reuses several names over the course of her novels, sometimes within the same book.
    • Alicia Johnson (Lady Susan) and Lady Alicia (Persuasion)
    • Anne Mitchell, Anne Thorpe (Northanger Abbey), Anne "Nancy" Steele, Anna-Maria Middleton (Sense and Sensibility), Anne de Bourgh, her namesake Anne Darcy, (Pride and Prejudice), Anne Taylor and her daughter (Emma), and Anne Elliot {Persuasion).
    • Arthur Otway (Emma) and Arthur Parker {Sanditon}.
    • Augusta Watson (The Watsons), Augusta Sneyd (Mansfield Park), and Augusta Hawkins (Emma).
    • Caroline Bingley (Pride and Prejudice) and Caroline Otway (Emma).
    • Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey), Catherine Vernon (Lady Susan), Catherine "Kitty" Bennet, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Pride and Prejudice).
    • Charlotte Davis, Charles Hodges (Northanger Abbey), Charles Smith, Charles Vernon (Lady Susan), Charlotte Palmer (Sense and Sensibility), Charles Bingley, Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice), Charles the servant, Sir Charles, Charles Anderson, Charles Maddox, Charles Price (Mansfield Park), Charles Hayter, the three Charles Musgroves, Charles Smith (Persuasion), Charles Dupuis, and Charlotte Heywood (Sanditon).
    • Clara Partridge (Emma) and Clara Brereton (Sanditon).
    • Edward Thorpe (Northanger Abbey), Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility), Edward Gardiner (Pride and Prejudice), Edward Wentworth (Persuasion), and Edward Denham (Sanditon).
    • Eleanor Tilney (Northanger Abbey) and Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility).
    • Elizabeth Watson (The Watsons), Betty the maid, Eliza Williams, Eliza Williams Jr. (Sense and Sensibility), Elizabeth "Eliza" "Lizzy" Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Betsy Price (Mansfield Park), and Elizabeth Elliot (Persuasion).
    • Emma Watson (The Watsons), Emma Woodhouse, and Emma's niece Emma Knightley (Emma).
    • Fanny Carr (The Watsons), Fanny Brandon, Fanny Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), Frances Price and her daughter Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), Fanny Harville (Persuasion), and Fanny Noyce (Sanditon).
    • Frederick Tilney (Northanger Abbey), Frederica Susanna Vernon (Lady Susan), and Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion).
    • George Morland, George Parry (Northanger Abbey), Georgiana Darcy, George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), George Knightley and his nephew George Knightly, and George Otway (Emma).
    • Harriet Morland (Northanger Abbey), Harriet Forster, Harriet Harrington (Pride and Prejudice), and Harriet Smith (Emma).
    • Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey), Henry Dashwood and his son Harry Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), Sir Henry, Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park), Harry, Hetty Bates, Henry Knightly, Henry Woodhouse (Emma), Henrietta Musgrove, Harry Musgrove, and Henry Russell (Persuasion).
  • 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.
  • Parental Favoritism
  • Parental Marriage Veto
  • Pride
  • Regency England
  • Rich Bitch: There's one in most of the novels.
  • Romantic False Lead:
  • 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.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Marrying for love frequently requires this.
  • Self-Made Man: Austen was a major advocate for them.
  • Shared Family Quirks
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Sibling Yin-Yang
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: In Sanditon, Mr. Parker treats the rival seaside town of Brinshore as one.
  • Spoof Aesop
  • Take That: At All Girls Want Bad Boys, Arranged Marriage, Love at First Sight and Brainless Beauties, for starters.
  • They Do
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Frequently, though it may not be the main plot
  • The Unfavorite
  • 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.
  • Wrong Guy First