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141. Jane's Truths 140. Most characters are snobs Earlier Answers-->

Name:(not given)
Question 141 What are some of the truths that Jane believed in and where those things founded in her novel as they reflected her life?
Reply Hello,

Even in the early, unrevised novel Northanger Abbey a truth is enunciated through the naive heroine Catherine Morland. A leading idea is that her life is too commonplace to furnish a romantic or gothic narrative, but it is also implied that she is too unsophisticated and callow to make good heoine material. A sort of 'bicycle repair man' reversal results in the reader's apprehension of things, as naive and unsophisticated speakers who merely say what they mean and mean what they say seems to be the exception in a world in which people like John and Isabella Thorpe and the General (Tilney) habitually use language in manipulative or hypocritical ways. Much of the pressure on bourgeois females came from their need to marry, suggesting an economic arrangement it so often was, when the basis of this is properly emotional, based on a sense of love or real compatibility.

In Pride and Prejudice I contrasted Elizabeth Bennet's hatred of the idea of marrying a man for material security with her friend Charlotte Lucas's doing just that as she accepts the absurd approaches of Mr Collins, whose vanity has been wounded by his rejection by Elizabeth, but who has had no time to think about what Charlotte is like or could possily mean to him. (Elizabeth specifically claimed that she knew Charlotte would never act in this way as something like the very basis of their friendship). I clung to notions of gentility and refinment, but distinguished between different ideas of 'the same': in Sense and Sensibility the heroines marry a sense of ethics and education as they address themselves to marriage-choices which both will make in scrupulous ways, contrasted with the parvenu Steele sisters, who seek to gatecrash good society and toady their way to the top (genteel in the sense of rich, snobbish and arrogant). Lucy achieves this by marrying someone they all agree is an affected idiot. In Mansfield Park Edmund Bertram must learn that he would be 'better off', in a telling phrase, with the sincere and deeply serious Fanny who 'worships' him, rather than the rich but deeply cynical Mary Crawford. In Persuasion the heroine deeply regrets the prudent approach of her gently snobbish friend Lady Russell, and is forced to oppose her family, especially Sir Walter Elliot, given their false values and ideology, which consistently makes for false estimates of what people are 'worth' (a pun which might be said to run through the novels). Emma doesn't wholly conquer her snobbery in her novel, and indeed the local vicar Mr Elton has a point when he observes that her pride should be satisfied at last when she marries the local landowner Mr Knightley, although she does at least learn that Mr Roert Martin and people of that sort may be worth knowing after all, and she did suffer when rebuked by Knightley for making poor, old Miss Bates the subject of (public) ridicule.† Still, Emma has been much disliked, not without reason, and we hope Mr Knightley will be constantly on hand to set her right and tell her off. In my life I had to copewith an aristocratic suitor I initially accepted but didn't love (enough to marry in good faith anyway). I was also courted by a dashing young suitor, Tom Lefroy, but he was parted from me for financial reasons. I may have resented his treatment of me as a careless, patronising suitor with the same first nme turns up in the powerful fragment The Watsons. My sense of idenification of myself and Cassandra as the romantic Marianne and the magnificently unromantic Elinor in Sense and Sensibility was quite strong--except that we never married!

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

February 1, 2009 22:59:04 (GMT Time)

Name:Alba G Martinez
Question 140 Most characters in Jane Austenís novels are snobs, involved only in their social standing. Give examples and give account of their part in the story. (Sense and Sensibility)
Reply Dear Alba,

It would not be conceded that most of the characters are snobs, but the characters who appear in the novel in 'speaking parts are 'gentlefolk', even when impoverished, as the Dashwood girls, its heroines Elinor and Marianne, are. It is pointed out that the servants were overjoyed to see the Dashwood girls arrived at Barton cottage, which shows that they know how to treat them nicely. Thomas the servant speaks on the sight of Mrs and Mrs Ferrars (when Lucy marries Robert, not Edward), and he speaks incorrect English, which my novels don't usually allow. Marianne and Elinor lay a stress on education, refinement, sincerity, and are undesigning, unlike Lucy, significantly named Steele, who is uneducated, and who marries the coxcomb Robert rather than nice Edward Ferrars because all she cares for is social position, money and power. Elinor marries the man she loves, but although he is a gentleman he occupies a relatively lowly social position. Marianne and Elinor are surrounded by designing, calculateing people who care only for social advancement, which overrrides consideration of personal qualities, affinities, and ethics. Willoughby, Marianne's dashing but dissipated 'beau' runs off to marry money, although this fails to make him happy. It's true that my characters are genteel, but within this social band people are shown to be differently motivated with respect to money, rank and power. The worst examples are ladies--Edward's dragon of a mother, Old Mrs Ferrars, apogee of false values, and Fanny Dashwood, John Dashwood's wife', who afflicts and helps reduce the Dashwood sisters to poverty. Their half-brother John, a weak man under the thumb of his wife, thinks only of money and property, even when these involve matters of personal and emotional import like marriage-choices (thinks Elinor should marry Colonel Brandon whether she likes him or not, e.g.).

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

December 28, 2008 20:53:32 (GMT Time)