Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature, her realism and biting social commentary cementing her historical importance among scholars and critics. Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she tried then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but died before completing it. (more...)
The main character, Fanny Price, is a young girl from a relatively poor family, raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. She grows up with her four cousins, Tom Bertram, Edmund Bertram, Maria Bertram and Julia, but is always treated as inferior to them; only Edmund shows her real kindness. He is also the most virtuous of the siblings: Maria and Julia are vain and spoiled, while Tom is an irresponsible gambler. Over time, Fanny's gratitude for Edmund's kindness secretly grows into romantic love. (more...)
In this novel, Austen analyses the conflict between the opposing temperaments of sense [logic, propriety, and thoughtfulness, as expressed in Austen's time by neo-classicists], and sensibility [emotion, passion, unthinking action, as expressed in Austen's time by romantics]. In this conflict, Elinor, a reserved, practical, and thoughtful young woman who embodies the "sense" of the title, is juxtaposed to her flightly younger sister Marianne who embodies "sensibility". Elinor appears to be vaguely based on the author's older sister, Cassandra Austen.
Elinor is described as possessing a coolness of judgement and strength of understanding which qualifies her to be her mother's frequent counsellor, and sometimes she shows more common sense than her mother, whose judgment is shown to be flawed by her exaggerated notions of romantic delicacy. Her mother is more often preoccupied with Marianne and her problems. Although Austen writes that Elinor's feelings are just as passionate and deep as Marianne's, she knows how to govern them better, as she is more aware of the demands society makes upon women and more prepared to compromise. She is described as having a delicate complexion, regular features, and a remarkably pretty figure—although less striking than Marianne, more "correct"—which Austen uses as a good overall summary of their characters as well as their physical appearance. (more...)