By: Wardat Masoodi
ears ago, I came across Austen and simply began to adore her. Ever since, I wanted to write something about this Minerva but could not gather the elements that an Austen Essay deserved (and I very much believe that I still have not). For she is capable of being hilarious in one paragraph and profoundly touching in the other—-all this embroiled in an intoxicating wit. I might warn you dear reader, that I am a bit biased when it comes to Austen, for multiple reasons. The first classic piece of Literature I ever read was by Austen and like most children of the subcontinent, I first came across an excerpt from her Pride and Prejudice in our School Textbook. It was the very first chapter An Excellent Father. Then it prompted me to buy the book and watch the adaptations as well. Though I had surely heard of Austen from many people in my life, this was the first time that I experienced the much talked about Austen Magic. She is surely extraordinarily marvelous but there are still mixed opinions about her writing. While it is a truth universally acknowledged, that Austen is a brilliant writer, there however are opinions that claim her writing to be too fairytale- ish.
People often point out that her books have perfect endings or she is unable to make the reader connect with the characters and their & inner turmoil. Even Brontè is said to have criticized her writing. Despite this, why do many people like her work? What did Austen write? How relevant is it still? All these questions will be explored after exploring Austen’s not-so-ordinary life. Much of her biography is sourced from her letters to the family and relatives. Among the family correspondence ,the letters to and from her dearly beloved sister Cassandra Austen are very much cherished by the Austen Scholars, for they are written without any social formalities. It is said that Jane bore her heart to her sister. Unfortunately, much the letters were burnt by Cassandra Austen and special loss can be traced from 1801 -4. Austens other relatives, which include her nephews are said to have burnt the letters too. The reason, they say, is Austen’s unapologetic sarcasm and critique in those pieces.
Thankfully, the life trajectory of Jane is very much out there. She was christened Jane and was born to George Austen, a rector at Steventon who belonged to a wool merchant family. Mr. Austen’s income was moderate and had to face considerable hardships for the same reason. Jane was the seventh of the 8 children. The Austen Household is said to have an open and intellectual Atmosphere and Ideas flowed not only in this inhabitant but in the whole of the Austen Household. Jane had an active social life. It is not much known whether she enjoyed socialising but it is evidently clear that the social visits , tet-a tete, the countenances, the topics of conversations and overall working of the social system was very keenly observed by Jane (As reflected in her novels).Her evenings were spent with family, friends and neighbours, dining, dancing or reading. Austen learned from multiple sources. Her formative years spent under an Oxfordshire based teacher. She joined boarding school later which she then had to leave as the family’s financial conditions were not stable. Jane learned a lot from books and by spending time at libraries–both the family and that of friends. She had access to Warren Hastings rich library as well. Austen’s father was a liberal man when it came to educating girls. He taught them sometimes himself and tried to give them the same education as that of his sons. Jane wrote plays and poems earlier followed by books like Love and Friendship, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Susan, Northanger Abbey. Sense and Sensibility was published under the pseudonym By a Lady.
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Later they moved to Bath. Mr Austen died shortly after and this disheartened Jane to a huge degree as evident by her inactivity in writing. After her father’s death, Jane and family moved to Chawton House Cottage, which was part of her brother’s estate. The two sisters and their mother didn’t socialise much and spent much of their time reading. The House is still preserved and many activities take place there which are associated with her in her loving memory.
Jane Austen’s work criticised the social system with her unmatchable wit and humour. The pompous aunts, the outlandish gentleman, worrying mothers, parties, audiences, ladies gossiping at tea parties, balls and pageantry- all can be found in her work. Her writing clearly shows how she keenly observed all this. According to Professor K. Sutherland, & Jane Austen’s characters are continuously watching, judging and gossiping about others and inturn are watched, judged and gossiped about. Her heroines in particular discover in the course of the novel that individual happiness can not exist separately from our responsibilities to others. In her novels in a variety of social settings people are talking about other people which does not do mostly any good to anyone. For instance, Mariann Dahwood while speaking of a lady says. All she wants is gossip and she only likes me now because I supply it.& In Northanger Abbey the same is indicated & Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.
Besides this, the importance of social standing is clearly demonstrated: In the famous Austen novel Pride and Prejudice(earlier called, The First Impressions), Mr Bennet’s income is 2000 pounds, Bingley earns 4 or 5 thousand a year and Darcy 10000. Mrs Bennett, like most Georgian mothers (and perhaps even like contemporary ones) expresses her delight for the same: Dear Lizzy, A house in town. Everything that is charming…Ten thousand a year. Oh Lord what will become of me. I shall go distracted. One of the most important things highlighted in all her works is the situation of women. It clearly challenges the ideas of that time and highlights the fact that how a woman was defined by her family and specially the male members of the family, she did not have her own individuality. Perhaps that is why the sheer courage is depicted in every female character in her book.
At a time when women could not openly write, this is a wonderfully beautiful step taken by Austen. In Pride and Prejudice she writes. There is a certain stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me and in Persuasion I hate to hear you talk about women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to live in calm water all our lives. Jane Austen surely was an ambassador for Women’s free will. She challenged the dogmas and critiqued the dominant notions and customs about women nd how their lives revolved around the household. It is safe to say that some of her works have biographical instances in them as well. For instance; Mr Bennet being a unique and supportive father. The wonderful thing about her writings is that people can still relate to it (like it is with many great writers)but also how eloquent and comprehensible she is. It feels that Jane was on a mission, to show the society how it actually was and perhaps even emphasize with the innocent victims of the system as well under the veil of wit and the stories of her characters.
Author hails from Eidgah, Srinagar and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org