A short overview of Jane Austen's novels
|During her lifetime, Jane Austen completed six novels. For anyone not familiar with the stories, here is an overview of her novels.|
In Sense and Sensibility (1811) Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two sisters, find true love and happiness in spite of obstacles. One of the charms of the novel comes from the contrasting characters of sensible Elinor and her younger sister Marianne who imagines herself as a heroine of one of the novels of ‘sensibility’, or keen sensitivity, popular at the time. After many mishaps including a failed romance with the dashing but irresponsible Mr. Willoughby, Marianne comes to adopt a more sensible approach to life.
Pride and Prejudice (1813) is perhaps Jane Austen’s most famous work. The novel tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and how she overcomes her prejudice against proud Mr. Darcy to achieve a happy marriage. Along the way, Elizabeth helps her older sister Jane as she in thwarted in her love for Mr. Darcy’s best friend Mr. Bingley, and has her family’s reputation threatened when her youngest sister Lydia runs away with dashing but deceitful Mr. Wickham — an enemy of Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen wrote of Elizabeth: ‘I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know’ (letter to Cassandra, 29th of January 1813).
In Mansfield Park (1814) quiet heroine Fanny Price is the poor relation from a large family who is sent to live with in the house of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram. Fanny refuses to marry Henry Crawford, despite being pressed to wed him by many of her relatives and her friend Mary Crawford. Instead, Fanny eventually marries her cousin Edmund Bertram who was the only one of her cousins to be kind to her from the first.
The heroine of Emma (1815) is a lovable busybody and matchmaker whose errors get her into trouble and almost ruin her happiness and that of her friend Harriet Smith. Fortunately, Emma learns the error of her ways with the help of her old friend Mr. Knightley, and both she and Harriet have happy endings.
In Persuasion (1817) Anne Elliot remains a spinster after turning down a proposal from her true love Captain Wentworth because of the prompting of her friend and mentor Lady Russell who thought that Captain Wentworth was beneath her. When Anne meets him again, she realises that giving him up was a mistake as she still has feelings for him. He has also achieved recognition and wealth through his naval career, in spite of her friends and family thinking poorly of his prospects. After many tribulations and misunderstandings, Anne eventually wins him back.
Northanger Abbey (1817) combines social satire and romance with elements of gothic novels, mystery and ghost stories. The heroine, Catherine Morland, is a good-natured girl but easily led and too susceptible to the influence of the gothic novels that she reads. When she is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey, the home of her friend Eleanor Tilney, Catherine immediately assumes that some eerie gothic mystery must have taken place there. She comes to suspect her beloved Henry Tilney’s father of murdering his mother. After causing herself great embarrassment through her fanciful nature, Catherine learns sense and comes to see that there is no murder mystery and that the character of the domineering father is the only danger at Northanger Abbey. Fortunately, Henry is prepared to overlook her flighty suppositions and they marry happily.
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