It is almost impossible to believe that Jane Austen led a relatively simple life—a life without constantly being exposed to the upper social class of her day. Austen was a sensible, down-to-earth type of girl. This is evidenced throughout her upbringing, romantic life, and development of her novels.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was not born into a well-off family but to a middle-class family. Her father was a clergyman and owed debt to many, so she was not pampered. Therefore, she was taught good morals and universal truths which are ultimately the characteristics of a realist and not a romantic (“Jane Austen Biography”). A Romantic is one who expresses feeling and insight into what they believe reality is, stretching or even breaking the boundaries of ultimate universal truths (Sporre 453). Austen knew love like many of the characters of her books, but unlike the characters, she never actually married. She fell in love once with a graduate of Trinity College, Thomas Langlois Lefroy. Because Jane was poor, Madam Lefroy ended the courtship by sending her son away leaving, Jane to never see him again. Later on, Jane was proposed to by a man who could support her very comfortably with some of the luxuries life could offer. She accepted but changed her mind by the next morning. She refused to marry someone who was characteristically unsuited to her personality (“Jane Austen Biography”). She deals with this genuine issue of marrying for love or for monetary comfort in her books Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. She addresses both sides of various controversial social subjects while giving her solid, promisingly satirical opinion (“Jane Austen”).
Austen was brought up in a way that taught her to know what her moral standards are and to stick to it. This influenced her writings immensely. It is what ultimately led to her great legacy.
Pride and Prejudice is the most well-known novel of Jane Austen. It was her first success; it was an act that was hard to follow by her other books. This literary piece demonstrates realism through the characteristics of main characters Jane Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet, and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Kalil 13).
Austen portrays Jane Bennet as a young, fairly well-off woman who is very loving and kind-hearted. She is more of a love-romantic than her younger sister Elizabeth. However, she sensibly endeavors not to fall too quickly for the rich bachelor Mr. Charles Bingley—but she falls desperately anyway. Elizabeth Bennet attempts the same action subconsciously. She summons all the prejudice she can muster against the gossip-proclaimed, conceited Mr. Darcy, while all along learns to love his impeding imperfections. Like her sister Jane, Elizabeth is fairly well-off but not as rich as those like the Darcys and Bingleys of the world. Pride and Prejudice deals with this actual pride and prejudice of the society that Austen was accustomed to observing. Mr. Darcy was reluctant to love Elizabeth because she was of a lower social standing. Elizabeth is also forced to approach the subject of marrying for love or for money. Mr. Collins, a cousin to the Bennet girls, proposes to Elizabeth. She has a decision to make. It was either to marry her cousin for he was to take over their home when Mr. Bennet dies or wait and marry when she loves someone (Adams 5-7).
Of course, Jane ends up marrying Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth declines Mr. Collins’s offer with the utmost, strained civility. Elizabeth then ends up marrying Mr. Darcy. She faced challenging decisions, but she ultimately chooses good morals like those of a realist (Adams 8).
Austen’s novel Emma portrays the real, heart-wrenching sides of love. This story teaches that there are always consequences for actions, good or bad. This is taught through the characters of Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Emma’s consequences.
The character of Emma is introduced to the readers in one swift sentence, pronouncing her beautiful, clever, and rich, with a complacent home and a close to spoiled nature (Austen 587). The story is about Emma’s journey from self-serving to emotional maturity. She is mixed up in love, per say, and she did things in vain. She attempted to play matchmaker between her friend Harriet and a young gentleman while knowing deep down that Harriet would be better fitted with a farmer who loves her. Emma is also flirtatious with a man named Frank Churchill even though she is in no disposition to ever seriously pursue him. She is ultimately always in love with a close friend and confidant, Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley is the “sensible” character of the story, and he is the constant of Emma’s life, giving her advice and genuine care. Because of Emma’s amorousness towards Churchill, Mr. Knightley runs away to London for his love towards Emma is the one emotion that he can not control. This is an impediment to her only opportunity for true love. Her mistakes were also a threat to Harriet’s chance for true love, and her choices also cause her public embarrassment (“Emma”).
The occurrences of love in Emma are probably highly exaggerated from real life, or it happens very rarely. However, the concept that consequences will always catch up with actions is prominent. Fortunately for every couple in this story, they end up with the right person, until death does them part.
Jane Austen’s realism was evidenced through her life, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. She completed six books during her short-lived life—Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abby, and Mansfield Park—and with those few books, she reached millions. Austen has left a legacy of satirical, priceless opinions that fundamentally demonstrate absolutes.
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"Emma." Spark Notes. Web. 3 Dec. 2009.
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"Jane Austen." The Literature Network. Ed. C. Merriman. Web. 2 Dec. 2009.
Kalil, Marie. Cliff's Notes: Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Foster City: IDG Books Worldwide,
Sporre, Dennis J. The Creative Impulse. 8th ed. Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.