Reading The Age this morning there is another article, Not all women want to be mothers and society is finally accepting it. It makes me appreciate the works of Jane Austen and remember some of my favourite characters who, although considered minor, are great role models. One of my all-time favourites would have to be Mrs Crofts. It is in Austen’s last completed novel Persuasion that she paints the Admiral and Mrs Crofts in such glowing terms. Mrs Crofts lived a wonderfully romantic and adventurous life. She has shared the Admiral’s life on “5 altogether” ships. She rejects the notion, very prevalent at the time, that women “would be too soft to be on a ship”… “We none of us expect to be in smooth waters all our days”. Theirs appears to be a very modern marriage based on equality and respect and this appears to have brought happiness. They do not have children and Austen makes no negative innuendo about such a circumstance.
Category Archives: Feminism
Another minor character that Austen crafted to challenge the status quo is Mrs Crofts from Persuasion. Mrs Crofts’ marriage is equal as well as romantic and adventurous. She has “crossed the Atlantic four times” with the admiral and was “shrewd” and “seemed more conversant with business” than her husband the admiral.
Jane Austen is portraying a very competent and happy woman here, able to participate in seafaring, one of the most difficult and dangerous occupations of the time. Continue reading
How could Charlotte Lucas, best friend to Lizzie Bennet choose such an odious partner? Surely this choice, the choice made by our pragmatic Charlotte for Clawing Mr Collins, has been gasped at through the centuries by countless readers of Pride and Prejudice.
Recall Charlotte says, “I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I only ask for a comfortable home”. Surely Jane Austen is making a comment on the choices that women must make in such an unfair and patriarchal world. Highlighting such limited and odious choices suggests Austen’s feminist credentials.
Jane lived a quiet life but the wicked ways of the world touched her and informed her writing. And when I refer to wicked ways I am not suggesting the 18th Century relaxed attitudes to sexuality, where one in three women were pregnant as they walked up the marriage aisle in the 18th century. 1. I mean the wickedness of inequality, hypocrisy and double standards. Women without dowries (or women’s shares), women in lowly social classes, women in loveless marriages and women who were courted for their fortune were in unhappy positions that Austen explored many times in her novels. Continue reading
Initially it may seem hard to reconcile a position of feminism for Jane Austen when all of her heroines end up in love and ultimately married. However, when one looks a little deeper one can see that Austen clearly deconstructs the world of advantage that men inhabit. Remember the very sobering and distressing story of Decent and Dependable Colonel Brandon’s ward Eliza in Sense and Sensibility’? Her story illustrates the terrible consequences for women in such an unfair world: Eliza’s mother, also called Eliza, is forced to marry for fortune and was treated cruelly by her husband. Unable to endure her married life she Continue reading
Women fall from grace when caught for being unfaithful while men tend to be able to get off guilt free in the Austen Six. The fact that this is the way Austen presents it might make us think that this is the way she thinks it should be. Not so. The fact that she highlights the differences of the relative treatment for the same misdemeanour surely shows that she is revealing the unfairness of it all.
Jane’s letters to Cassandra fulfilled a very important purpose. They were to lift the spirits. They are full of gossip and jokes. Sometimes the jokes fall flat, like the time Jane passed on the news of a stillbirth. She comments, “it was owing to a fright. – I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.” Continue reading
Now that Now that Jane Austen has her place on the British bank note we can ask: did she espouse feminist values? Previously I had assumed not. Yet, it is an interesting universal truth if you like, once you start looking for something you do invariably find it. Such was the case when reading and re reading the Austen Six. Many examples were found. One example of Austen’s remarkably modern critique of the power structures of the world in which the Austen Six is set is in Persuasion. Continue reading
Jane Austen seemed to like to make the self important fall and the ordinary and unimportant shine. The Very-Very-Important-and-Vain-Sir Walter Elliot, in Persuasion, believes in consequence. To be important, to be special, is to him the most important concern of life. To be honest and to pay one’s debts does not really figure. Who can forget Austen’s opening lines:
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, ……..
“Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.” Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.
He is in direct contrast to his youngest daughter, Virtuous but Undervalued Anne. She realises her own insignificance and finds pleasure in friends and social responsibilities rather than her own consequence. She treats all others with respect. As she describes herself, “she is no card player”. She feels compassion for those less wealthy and does not reject friends just because they are down on their luck. She has her priorities right.
Maybe this is why Catherine Middleton is so popular – she also seems to have her priorities right? Continue reading