Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice better characterised as a Romantic or Victorian novel?

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It is difficult to classify Jane Austen's novels in terms of time period/literary movement, though her novels do fall in the Romantic period in terms of their publication dates. For example, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, which is the height of the Romantic era in English poetry. The Romantic poets valued individuality, creative expression, and supernatural, mysterious, or mythological themes (in response to the Age of Reason with its emphasis on rationality over emotion and creativity). Jane Austen's novels don't necessarily fit that description, though, as her works are social novels and often deal with marriage in the early 1800s in a very realistic manner.

Austen's novels would definitely not be considered Victorian since they were published before Queen Victoria took the throne in the 1830s. There is one similarity between Austen's work and Victorian novels and that is her focus on marriage and social critique. Like famous Victorian author Charles Dickens, Austen points to some of the flaws of her society, though she often does so in a more satirical manner. Pride and Prejudice deals with the Bennet family's attempts to marry off their five daughters to suitable men. The novel is a romantic story in the sense of its love-driven plotlines; however, it's not really Romantic in the way Keats's or Shelley's works are characterized as such.

Again, Austen's works, including Pride and Prejudice, are realist social novels, so while they fit the Romantic period in terms of publication dates, they are not Romantic in the way the English poetry of the era is. Pride and Prejudice is not a Victorian novel, as it was written prior to the period, but it does focus on marriage, which many Victorian novels also do.

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In many ways, it would be better not to characterise Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen as either Romantic or Victorian, because Austen's sensibility appears closer to that of the Augustans of the 18th century. Like Pope and Dryden, her strongest work is satiric, and she praises good sense and moderation and satirizes excess. Stylistically she admires and imitates Addison and Steele, and like other Augustan writers is interested in refinement of the sensibility and emotions to fit a model of an ideal gentlewoman/gentleman. The novelist closest to Austen in manner would be the Victorian Anthony Trollope, a Victorian, especially in his Barsetshire novels, which has a similarly balanced and subtle narrative voice.

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