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Argue that Austen's novel is a reflection of its revolutionary age - Essay Example

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Jane Austen’s last completed novel Persuasion begins with a book — with the book, as indeed John Debrett’s The Baronetage of England was for the aristocratic families in Austen’s time. A listing in Debrett’s was a clear indication of social standing in Regency Britain,…
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Argue that Austens novel is a reflection of its revolutionary age
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Argue that Austen's novel is a reflection of its revolutionary age

Sandwiched between her older sister Elizabeth who stands in for her mother in her widowed father’s esteem and affection and her younger sister Mary who has made and advantageous and fruitful marriage to a young man due to inherit his own landed estate, Anne’s curious social position allows her a possibility of social mobility that echoes the social shifts taking place across Europe. As a woman, Anne’s social position would be inherently precarious, dependent on her father first and then on the man she married. The undefined nature of an unmarried woman’s social standing gave young women a certain social mobility that was universally acknowledged. A young woman could marry her way into improved social standing – as Austen’s two Miss Bennets do with their marriages to Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice – or, as Lady Russell warns Anne Elliot in Persuasion, a bad marriage could plunge a poor young woman “into a state of most wearing, anxious, youth-killing dependance.” (1158) As a member of the early-nineteenth century aristocracy, Anne is a member of a landed gentry that makes dubious claims about the inherent nobility of birth. For every prudent, thoughtful aristocrat like Emma’s Mr. Knightley, there is an equal an opposite aristocrat in the style of Anne’s father. Sir Walter takes inordinate pride in his ownership of Kellynch Hall and his storied family tree, but he himself has frittered away his family fortune to the point that he must lease his ancestral home in order to maintain his lifestyle. Tellingly, Sir Walter’s lessee is no landed gentleman or wealthy second son of a gentleman but a professional man, an admiral in the British navy, who can afford the rent and upkeep of the estate. Perhaps most interestingly, as a rational person, Anne is willing to be persuaded, as the novel’s title suggests. Though she has a healthy appreciation for tradition, Anne appreciates – and responds to – plain good ... Read More
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