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The Themes in two of Jane Austen’s Popular Novel


The Themes in two of Jane Austen’s Popular Novels

The theme of love is a main theme in most of Jane Austen’s novels. In the novel Pride and Prejudice, the courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth is designed as a love story in which the characters must overcome various challenges for them to be together. The personal traits of each come across as a factor that can hinder their love. Elizabeth has prejudice on the type of man that Darcy is, judging from her poor background. The opening statement, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’ reveals the nature of human companionship if not love (Gray, 11). The statement sets the pace for the novel and it works to explain the major theme and plot of the novel.

In the novel Sense and Sensibility, John Willoughby, with whom Marianne falls in love, also brings the theme of love. Elinor and Edward also bring the theme of love. The love in Sense and Sensibility rests more on discretion rather than the flamboyance that is depicted in pride and prejudice. The characters of Elinor and Marianne are retrospective of each other. The expression of love by Elinor is quite sordid while that of Marianne is highly expressive and whimsical. The discretion of Elinor in her love can be quoted when she says, ‘I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of Edward, that I... greatly esteem him... I like him.’ To which Marianne responds that the use of the words ‘esteem him’ and ‘like him’ are used to hide the true feelings that she feels for Edward (Sense and Sensibility).

The writer expresses some form of cynicism when he portrays love through the characters of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins who comes out as silly and annoying (Gray, 47). The love of the two and their marriage has not been caused by emotions, but by the careful planning of climbing the social ladder and seeking financial security. The depiction of love in this case seems to contrast to the writer’s view of love and despite the comical view on love, the primary characters are able to accomplish the objectives of love to seal a prosperous if not happy ending.

The other theme expressed by Jane Austen in the two novels is the manner in which women are expected to carry themselves. In Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth enters Netherfield covered with mud and having a reputation shock from Miss Bingely we see that it was not expected of her to be viewed that way (Gray, 34) . The behavior and the class of Mrs. Bennet usually accord her disdain from Darcy and Bingley who are somehow snobbish. The theme of reputation represents that of classism, which was rather rife with many writers of English literature at the time, Charles Dickens also touched on this in a tale of two cities.

In Sense and Sensibility, the character of Elinor acts in such a way that is regarded as classy when she holds back from being emotional and carried away from the feelings she has for Edward. In one scene of the movie Elinor says, ‘…It is bewitching in the idea of one’s happiness entirely depending on one person’; this brings the independence and class of high achieving people in the society, which Elinor is emulating (Sense and Sensibility). Mrs. Dashwood was told by Fanny that she would be forced to disinherit his son Edward if she goes on to marry Elinor who came from a poor background.

The theme of class also paints the necessity of discretion in relationships. Characters such as Elinor and John Wiloughby in Sense and Sensibility depict the need to reduce the outward exposure of certain details of a relationship (Sense and Sensibility). The discretion is caused by the wanton judgment that was passed on by the society to the women and men who were not adhering to the rules of courting. For example, the love of John Wiloughby and Marianne prove the need for discretion because John was harboring a secret of having born a baby from another courtship with Beth who was somehow related to the Dashwoods. This causes Wiloughby to be disinherited by her aunt, Lady Allen. In Pride and Prejudice Darcy says, ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’; according to Elizabeth, this was an admission to the differences in class rather than a declaration of love (Sense and Sensibility). The feelings of Darcy come out as repressed due to social classism and he had repressed what she truly felt for Elizabeth.

The style of writing of Jane Austen proves to be of contrast to bring the differences of certain situations. For example, the contrast of the Bennet’s Family to that of Darcy shows the different classes of love and the notions each one of them hold regarding love. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne portrays the dashing nature of sensibility, but Elinor, on the other hand, carries herself with decorum and does not become emotive in matters regarding love and prosperity, she represents ‘Sense” as it is depicted in the title.

Works Cited

Gray, Donald J. "Preface." In Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Essays in Criticism, edited by Donald J. Gray. Norton, 1966.

Sense and Sensibility. London, England: Ang Lee, 1995. DVD.

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