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How do you view Jane Austen as a feminist writer?Under which school would you clasify...
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The answer to this question, as with so many questions in literature, is that it all depends. In one way Jane Austen can be seen as a feminist writer because she was the first to give women the central role in a number of works of fiction, and not just women but strong independent characters to be taken seriously by both men and other women. Elizabeth Bennet is probably the best known example, a very modern-seeming girl in her attitudes and outlook, even - by the standards of the time - a bit too forthright and impudent. On the other hand, Jane Austen's heroines do generally end up going down a conventional path i.e. marrying and settling down in the manner that might have been expected of them from the beginning. It could even be argued that the very qualities that distinguish them, independence and vivacity, are in the end employed to secure them the men they want. In other words, they artfully contrive to have men chase them for their apparent individuality. Elizabeth almost says as much when she playfully (?) answers her sister that her attraction to Darcy began the first time time she saw his stately home, Pemberley. I personally see Jane Austen as a very realistic writer in this sense, not necessarily feminist or anti-feminist, but as someone who portrays people as getting what they want or need from other people by whatever means they have at their disposal.
Posted by anzio45 on January 20, 2009 at 6:58 AM (Answer #2)
High School Teacher
You need to be careful with the kind of labels that you attach to authors. I doubt very much whether Jane Austen would have been happy with calling herself a feminist, and yet we can identify some feminist "tendencies" in her work. Lizzie Bennet, of course, is the prime example of an independent, headstrong and outspoken young women who, in one sense, refuses to bow to the will of those around her and her parents (for example in her rejection of Mr. Collins) but at the same time she does follow a very conventional path of marriage and social standing by marrying Mr. Darcy. Thus she seems to carve her own path and make her own space in her society rather than fundamentally challenging the overall patriarchy. So I guess you could argue that Austen was being subversive in her depiction of strong female heroines who get their happy ending in spite of their outspoken characters, but you have to remember that every single one of her novels ends in marriage.
Posted by accessteacher on May 2, 2010 at 7:32 AM (Answer #3)
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