Category Archives: Feminism

Did Austen follow the stereotype that all women want to be mothers?

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. 

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Challenging the status quo

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

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Charlotte’s Choice

https://happinesswithausten.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/c06fe-charlotteandmrcollinspride_plot2.jpgHow 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.

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Prudishness

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

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What can Eliza in Sense and Sensibility reveal?

English: "She was scarcely able to stand&...

English: “She was scarcely able to stand” – Marianne sprains her ankle and Willoughby comes upon her and rescues her. Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. London: George Allen, 1899, page 44. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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Is Austen a fan of the double standard?

Allegory of Love, I: Infidelity

Allegory of Love, I: Infidelity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

 

When Typical-Teen-LydiaBennet, in Pride and Prejudice elopes with Wickham, Continue reading

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What about some of Jane’s less-than-kind comments in her letters?

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

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