Jane Austen's Realism

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Jane Austen’s Word: a reading of Jane Austen’s novels shows that her materials are extremely limited in themselves. Her subject matter is limited to the manners of a small section of country-gentry who apparently never have been worried about death or sex, hunger or war, guilt or God. Jane Austen herself referred to her work as “Two inches of ivory.” In a letter to her niece, Jane Austen wrote, “Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on.” Those three or four families are the mind we knew intimately – the landed gentry, the upper classes, the lower classes, not only the industrial masses, but also the agricultural laborers. Narrow setting: P&P like her other novels has a narrow physical setting. The story revolves around Netherfield, Longbourn, Hunsford Parsonage, Meryton and Pemberley. There is no reference to nature itself. It is a literary irony that at a time when writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, Byron and Keats were discovering external nature. Jane Austen imprisoned her characters indoors. Her settings are the drawing rooms, ball rooms, parks and gardens of a civilized leisure class. She allows nothing terrible to happen, sometimes, elopements are introduced. Another limitation of her novels is the feminization of her novels. Men do not appear except in the company of women. Women play a dominant role in her novels. These limitations have occasioned some scathing criticisms on her works. H.W. Garrod complains of the monotonous uniformity of her materials. He says, “A drab scenery, the worse for use, a thin plot, unfashionable cut and a dozen or so stock a characters.” Limited Range and theme: She is a novelist of a very limited range, but still her art is perfect. David Cecil tells us that Jane Austen’s limitations stemmed from her choice of themes. He further said, “This nature of her talent, imposed a third limitation on her, it made her unable to express impulsive emotions directly.” She doesn’t express emotions...
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