Jane Austen Austen and Feminism Subtle Feminism-Bold Female Characters Share Article | Jul 2, 2008 Jessica Gleason The question at hand is whether Austen was a feminist. It was thought that Austen was a romance writer who taught tradition/virtue in her prose. This was not the case.
While it may be true that Austen was a romance writer, it was not the way critics had once believed. Instead of exalting the value of tradition and virtue in her prose, Austen defied it and made a case for feminine rights. Whether we see Austen as a feminist because we are looking for evidence in her text or because she truly was a feminist is something that we may never be able to discern. Austen was not outright in her feminism and if you weren't looking for it, you might not have noticed the stances she took. She was well known for writing about young women who only had interest in marriage, and she was often underestimated because of this (Ashford 1). Though if you analyze her work you will find her subtle feminist tendencies.
Complex Heroines-Elizabeth, Catherine and Elinor While most of Austen's characters did want to marry, they always wanted to choose their own suitors and marry for love which is something that was unheard of during Austen's lifetime. Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice, "who will be dependant on her family and at the mercy of Mr. Collins who holds the entail to the family house if she never marries, only wants to marry if she can find 'the deepest love'" (Ashford 1). Elizabeth was a very intelligent character, but it was not only the smart females that held this sort of strong feminine notion about marrying for love. The character, Catherine, from Northanger Abbey was not very dim, but she also had great character judgement in disliking John Thorpe.
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There can even be a case for Austen believing that women should hold jobs like men, Elinor from Sense and Sensibility envies men with careers (Ashford 1). Marriage and Patriarchy
Society was very patriarchal during these times, men were in control of all monitary assets. When a man died, his money was actually passed on to the closest living male heir and the women were left penniless. While men and women were allowed to chose thier own partners, money/wealth/status were very important and often marriages were made on those grounds alone (Spacks 326). Not Technically Feminism, But Close
You can't actually call Austen a feminist because her protest was very subtle and only found by the discerning eye, but she did help pave the way for modern day feminists. She had views on women and marriage and women's rights in general and she made that known in her writing. Her message was read by millions of women all over England and is read by millions more today, without pioneers like Austen, women may have been left in the dust--victims of a never ending patriarchal society.
Bibliography Ashford, Viola. “Was “Was Jane Austen A Feminist?” Feminist ?” suite101.com . 30 January 2005. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2004. Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2006. Spacks, Patricia Meyer. Afterword. Sense and Sensibility. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2006. 325-326.
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