Jane Austen was a 19th century novelist best known today for her work, Pride and Prejudice. Austen's six complete novels are commonly credited with solidifying the novel as a genre and creating the template for the modern romance novel.
Jane Austen was a 19th century novelist best known today for her work, Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s six complete novels are both romances and novels of manners - fictional stories that capture the social conventions and values of a particular group of people. Though the first English novels were written in the 18th century, Austen is commonly credited with solidifying the genre and creating the template for the modern romance novel.
Born in 1775, Austen grew up in a large and loving family. She had a close relationship with her father who encouraged her to make use of the family library for practicing her reading and writing. Her family’s pastimes of storytelling and acting most likely contributed to her creative imagination. Austen began writing extensively in her teenage years, exploring various forms of writing, including adventure stories and parodies of the popular romantic melodramas of her time. By the 1790s, Austen became more serious in her endeavors, penning drafts to and attempting to publish Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. It was not until the second decade of the 1800s, however, that her works, including Emma, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park, were anonymously published. They garnered much praise and popular appeal, but were not recognized for their truly ground-breaking nature until many decades later.
Jane Austen’s writing shows a realism far ahead of her time. Her novels focus on ordinary middle class families in early 19th century England. Rather than echoing the dramatic conventions of Romantic literature, Austen stays clear of spooky settings, castles, theatrical deaths, and miraculous inheritances. Instead, she steadies her plots in the mundanities of social calls and family dynamics. Another of Austen’s innovations is her use of third person limited point of view, a rare narrative choice in her era, which allowed her simultaneously develop her protagonist’s character and build to unexpected plot twists. When her protagonist’s expectations are proven wrong, readers are surprised along with the character, but are also given further insight into that character’s prejudices, egotisms, and misjudgments. This effective character building is one of Austen’s greatest strengths. Through a variety of believable social types, Austen manages to express criticisms of her contemporary society. Her intelligent female protagonists and witty dialogue create a biting satire of social manners and prejudices. Although the habits and lifestyles of her novels are outdated, many of the character types are recognizable to this day.
Love and marriage constitute the central subject of all of Austen’s novels. Most of her novels follow the pattern of a heroine who misjudges the men in her life, pursues the wrong man, has an epiphany, and ends up happily marrying the man most temperamentally suited to her. Although little is known about Austen’s own love life (she never married), her novels suggest that she felt strongly about the importance of love, respect, and mutual intelligence in marriage. These six novels set the pattern for the modern romance novel and movie, in which the two love interests remain at odds until a climactic reversal near the end of the story. Austen died in 1817, but 200 years later, her works remain some of the most popular novels in English literature. Her stories have spawned countless films, TV adaptations, Youtube series, and fan fiction, and continue to reach new generations each year.
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
“Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.”
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
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