It is always difficult to take contemporary critical literary theory concepts and apply them retrospectively to literature from an earlier period in which these theoretical concepts were not enunciated or given play (in which the concepts did not exist). Asking how Austen challenged readers to examine values tries to do just this: the question seeks to apply current critical theory to Austen as though she operated within the contemporary system in which she actively, intentionally challenge readers. To elucidate this point, one of the greatest complaints about Austen's stories at the time of their publication was that she challenged and stirred nothing; that she made no social value comment at all. This negative opinion about Austen's books is notably expressed by Charlotte Brontë's letters:
what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of Life and the sentient target of Death- this Miss Austen ignores; .... (Charlotte Brontë to William Smith Williams, 12th April 1850)
On the other hand, logician Peter Smith, Ph.D., of Oxford and Cambridge, asserted in 1966 that Austen--having read one or more of the leading moralists of her day, such as Shaftesbury--was a deliberate moralist who was deliberately redirecting their moralism toward her readership through the characterizations of those who peopled who novels. In this analysis, the extent to which Austen was a moralist and challenged her readers to examine their values was great because her characterizations were all oriented to exposing the characters' moral thoughts and values. By Smith's analysis, Austen challenges' readers by exemplifying right moral thinking as expressed by leading moralists like Shaftesbury and others.
"Like him!" replied [Elinor's] mother with a smile. "I feel no sentiment of approbation inferior to love."
"You may esteem him." [said Elinor]
"I have never yet known what it was to separate esteem and love."