Social Class in Jane Austen

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Throughout this essay , I will be looking at the theme of social class in Jane Austen’s work ; critically analysed by Juliet McMaster, a chapter taken from ‘The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen’, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Jane Austen's novels at first glance tell a story of romance, set within the landowning society amidst country estates, and their cultivation of tea parties, social outings, and extravagant balls; ladies frolicking in flowing gowns through decorated rooms, and men deliberating over their game of whist. The storybook romance usually unfolds in these familiar settings, and inevitably involves the conflict of two lovers separated by differences in social class, and the resulting influence of the diverse societies they revolve in. Although these superficial aspects of Austen's stories are protruding at the seams, underneath the skin of these well-clothed dramas lie serious moral issues affecting the culture of England during Austen's life.

Jane Austen in my opinion grasps the traditional female role through her female characters in her books, for example, Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price, Catherine Morland, Anne Elliot, and Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Her combination of irony, humour, and sophisticated observations of the social and cultural machinations between the classes, epitomise the often absurd problems of inheritance, courtship, morals, and marriage in Regency England.

The theme of class in particular, is represented in most of Austen’s novels, through these said characters. Lady Catherine de Bourgh , one of the most memorable and least likeable characters in her novels, liked to ‘ have distinction of rank preserved.’ Class difference was a fact of life for Jane Austen, and a very detailed observation of the distinctions between one social strata and another. Some readers tend to stress, the fact that Austen was an unmarried woman and women were assumed to take their status from men, she views the world...
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