The greatest authors of all time
Austen as a Critic
Jane Austen will go down in history as one of the greatest authors of all time. Jane Austen made a name for herself by criticizing the time period she lived in. Austen knew that the way her society was ran with social class being the upmost importance was ridiculous. By the way Austen writes and what she makes her characters do prove that Austen views her society in that time period to be foolish because of the strict standards that everyone upholds about class. Austen herself actually was brought up in a wealthy family which probably had these same standards about class that the characters had in her novels. It's interesting to see how someone from high class could see beyond what she was conditioned to know about love and see that love meant more than just the love of money.
In many of Austen's novels there is this sense of feminism that translates to her becoming one of the biggest social critics of her generation. She viewed women differently than women were viewed in that time period since they were viewed as more of a possession to their men then actually being seen as an individual. Austen in her book makes fun of the opinion that men have concerning woman with the way she makes some of the male characters in her book seem conceded about themselves.“Vanity was the beginning of the end of Sir Walter Eliot's character. Few women could think more of their personal appearance then he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society” (Austen 4). In this quote Austen is not only describing one of her characters but really mocking the men of her own society. Growing up in a high class family, Austen was most likely introduced to many other wealthy families in her time since during this time period people only were accompanied by other members of their social class to all social events attended.
In Austen's books there is usually a pattern. At the conclusion of all her novels most if not all the time the main character which is usually a woman obtains the man she has wanted to be with throughout the entire novel. This idea of a woman getting what they wanted was unheard of during the era that Austen lived in. For a woman to be able to say she got everything she wanted like the main female characters do in her books was a whole new idea that had not been previously introduced. Also in all Austen's book there usually is always a female character as the main character. Another one of Austen's novels that is widely known is the novel Pride and Prejudice which also contains a few female characters as the main characters. That itself could be considered a feminist motivation.
In Austen's books class is also always a very big issue. Austen uses class in her novels to mock the way people feel and react to different members in her society. Austen portrays a class where the wealthiest people seem to think they are better than the social classes below them. They believe anybody who's anybody needs to be wealthy. The wealthier people are seen as high class and have certain standards that they need to obtain since they are in that class. It seems that Austen always stresses material objects are the most prominent way of showing someone how much wealth you have in her society. In the beginning of the story Anne's dad, Sir Walter Elliot actually has to move out of their home and find a new and less expensive one because of his terrible spending habits. When the idea of moving to a smaller and cheaper house is presented to Sir Walter Elliot in order to save money he is completely appalled and speechless with disgust.
This part in the novel is where Austen criticizes how the rich in her society feel so strongly about having the best material objects, for example living in a huge mansion will make you happy. However, Austen mocks how pathetic she feels that these people are for thinking that material possessions will somehow buy you happiness. They depend so much on their statuses that they forget about the important things like finding true love and actually marrying someone there in love with rather than just marrying for money. A lot of people would take a look at the social class in the 18th century and describe it as very straightforward but also it was very challenging. During this time period it was believed to become part of the elite group of high class individuals one needs to be very wealthy but not waste their time with any kind of profession. The idea was to be rich but not to work for it. Being someone born with money was considered very respectable.
Another idea that Austen loved to criticize in almost all of her novels is the idea of marriage. Marriage always plays a huge part in all of Austen's novels because it was such a significant part in the lives of young girls in that time period. Marriage was always looked upon as something that every woman needed to eventually go through and the society at that time established it as one of the most important experiences one should have.
However, during this time period marriage was much different than in today's society. Back then marriage wasn't all about love but mostly about creating financial comfort for yourself for the rest of your life. Women were conditioned to think that they needed to marry a man that was in the same social class as them so they could create a comfortable life for themselves. Austen found this absurd and destroying of what she thought marriage should be about, that is why she always uses the example in her books of two people from complete different social classes falling in love.
In the book Persuasion that Jane Austen wrote the main character Anne is challenged throughout the story of following her heart and being with Captain Wentworth who is in a much lower social class then she is in and risk her reputation or be with someone in her social class and keep her high reputation in the town of Bath. Throughout the book Anne is faced with so many different obstacles keeping her away from Captain Wentworth including staying true to her family and the different values she has learned throughout her life telling her to stay away from men like Captain Wentworth. Anne must decide whether or not to go against everything she has known just for true love.
When this novel was written Jane Austin was terminally ill. When writing this novel Austen tried to pack in all the stereotypes and last mocking words she could about how she felt about the society she lived in before she passed away. “Persuasion will not look so unequivocally like Austen's last word and most mature word about the love and the changing world before death stopped her lips” (Johnson 286). In this quote the author talks about how Austen incorporated everything she wrote about within her past novels about her beliefs about class in society and combined it all into the book Persuasion, as her last words that she would every write. She wanted to give a strong opinion to end her life with.
When Austen was writing this novel she very ill and was close to death. Austen knew that this would be the last time that she would be able to write a novel that criticized the society she lived in so she knew that it needed to contain all of her ideas in it Austen could really see into the future in a way and knew that this idea of marriage by social class was going to be forgotten in the future and one day people would start marrying for love rather than wealth. I think that's why her novels are still widely read and understood even in today's society because they are like modern love stories but they were written during the 1800's. “Persuasion will not look so unequivocally like Austen's last word and most mature word about the love and the changing world before death stopped her lips” (Johnson 286). In this quote the author talks about how Austen incorporated everything she wrote about within her past novels about her beliefs about class in society and combined it into the book Persuasion, as her last words that she would ever write. She wanted to give a strong opinion to end her life with.