“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
A prolific writer of the romance genre, Jane Austen is one of the greatest writers of all time despite publishing only six novels. Moreover, Austen’s commentary on the plight of women in her era provides vital insights that are applicable today.
The youngest daughter in a family of eight, Jane Austen was born in Hampshire, England. They were part of the upper middle class. Jane and her siblings were all inclined toward literature, but only Jane ever became a published author.
Even though the norm of the time was for women to stay at home and be homemakers, Jane and her sister Cassandra received a good education. They were taught both homemaking subjects and finishing school lessons, but her father also taught them from his library and was very supportive of his daughters’ craft. They were also sent to Oxford for a time but had to return home after contracting a disease.
At the age of twenty-three, Austen had already completed three manuscripts. Her writing style was concise, realistic, and straight to the point. Although her novels were romances, they also shone a light on class disparity at the time. Her stories included themes of love, power, and the search for happiness.
Austen’s published novel was Sense and Sensibility, the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood and their experiences of love, romance, and heartbreak. All her novels were authored “By a Lady” because putting her own name on the novel could raise questions about her credibility. Sense and Sensibility was followed by Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. These four novels made Austen a successful writer in her time.
Austen’s health started deteriorating in 1816, and thereafter, she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Nevertheless, Austen continued to write and completed two more manuscripts before her demise in 1817. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously.
Jane Austen is being commemorated with an annual Jane Austen Festival held in different parts of the world. Aside from various television, film, and other media adaptations, her novels have also been adapted and crossed with the fantasy genre. Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and later Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters reimagine Austen’s characters intertwined with popular mythology.
To date, Austen’s novels, especially Pride and Prejudice, remain popular. The main character of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet, is unlike her sisters—tomboyish, headstrong, and independent. Lizzie Bennet became a template for future female characters, breaking them out of the damsel-in-distress mold. To this day, Pride and Prejudice remains Austen’s most popular novel.
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