Jane Austen Questions and Answers

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Does Jane Austen rush her novel endings? Why or why not? What are some examples?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would not claim that Jane Austen rushes the endings of her novels. In fact, one criticism of Austen's work is that they accomplish relatively little—so much of the action of the works is interior, happening in the characters' own heads—though I would argue against this criticism as well.

Take, for example, Austen's most famous and well-known work, Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist, and Fitzwilliam Darcy do end up getting married in the end, as do Elizabeth's lovely older sister, Jane, and her beau, Charles Bingley. One could argue that this is the expected, pro forma ending, but this is not the case.

Ever heard the expression, "the course of true love never did run smooth"? This is an understatement when it comes to these couples. First, there is the difference in rank: the Bennets are daughters of a gentleman, sure, but their relatives are in trade; they are beneath the wealth and social status of Darcy and Bingley. Then, Elizabeth must dodge the marriage proposal of her odious cousin, Mr. Collins. Jane must keep the faith, though it seems like Bingley no longer cares for her when he leaves Netherfield abruptly with his family. Further, Jane must bear with his proud and meddling sisters. Elizabeth even declines Mr. Darcy's first marriage proposal because he is so proud (and insulting) and so assured of his success when he offers his hand. She also has to get the full story about Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy's past relationship in order to begin to form a more correct feeling about Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth also requires a visit to Pemberley and a discussion with Darcy's housekeeper to continue her re-education on the man. Finally, both sisters must deal with the potential fall-out of Lydia's elopement with Wickham, a move which threatens the reputations of all the girls, jeopardizing their prospects of marrying at all, let alone well above their own station. Actually—one more thing—Elizabeth must face Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy's formidable aunt!

In short, in order for Darcy and Elizabeth to actually get together, both partners must change; both must learn to see their own mistakes and errors, their own pride and prejudices, and then—and only then—can the happy endings take place. And, without the new understanding that Darcy develops, it is unclear whether Bingley would ever have proposed to Jane. There are so many twists and turns before the ending can arrive that we cannot say it was rushed.

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