Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Bringing characters to life was Jane Austen’s forte

The creator of romanticism for young adults is none other than the renowned author Jane Austen. Her books mainly revolved around the British social class of the 18th century. Her six completed novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion – had some strong characterisations and depictions of the circumstances of that era.

The author’s childhood, like many from that time, was nothing but ordinary. Born to George Austen and his wife on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, Jane’s family was always up for intellectual debates on politics and socio-economic topics. This was very evident in her writing style as well.

The times then were such that women could only write for pastime and not to gain popularity or celebrity status like their male counterparts. Jane, too, published her books anonymously. After the success of her first novel Sense and Sensibility, her other works were much awaited by the aristocratic class.

Jane’s style of writing can mainly be classified as parody, burlesque, irony, free indirect speech and realism. Jane uses her wit to counter the portrayal of women in the 18th century who, not to exaggerate, were mainly concerned about marriage, societal status and finances.

For instance, take Pride and Prejudice’s story. The only thing that Mrs Bennet wanted was to see all her daughters married to wealthy suitors. Even when her second youngest elopes, she is happy that she found someone who inherited some fortune.

The best line in the book has to be the conversation between Mr Bennet, Mrs Bennet and Elizabeth. The free-willed protagonist is under serious pressure from her mother to marry Mr Collins in order to inherit their house. Elizabeth’s father, Mr Bennet, says, “An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day, you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

Pride and Prejudice is an all-time bestseller because of Jane’s imaginative work. Whether it was the gentleman-like qualities of Mr Darcy or the weak nerves of Mrs Bennet, the characters have come alive for the readers. Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility were also such masterpieces that they have been adapted into series, mini-series and films too. Each having a life of its own, these novels make for interesting re-reads.

Emma has the most comic tone of them all. The meddling protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, has only one aim – matchmaking. Neighbours, friends and acquaintances are usually the target of her futile attempts. On the other hand, Sense and Sensibility is on the same lines as Pride and Prejudice. Very easily, one can draw parallels between the characters of Colonel Brandon and Mr Darcy, and Marianne and Elizabeth.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published by her relatives Cassandra, Henry Austen and Murray after Jane’s demise. Jane battled with Addison disease and breathed her last on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, Hampshire, England, when she was just 41 years old. But, her legacy lives on.

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