2. Jane Austen as an Artist of Limited Range

2. Jane Austen’s Limited Range

Most of Jane Austen’s critics believe that Jane Austen is an artist of limited range. However, there are some who opine that Jane Austen is not an artist of limited range because they believe that almost every artist is limited in his range. But why is Jane Austen blamed for being limited in her range? The answer is that she is one of those artists whose area of working is limited but always deep and highly philosophical. She always tries to write what she observes through her personal experiences of daily routine life. She herself says: “The little hut of ivory on which I work with so fine brush as produces little effect after much labour.” That’s why, she prefers to choose social life of a family but she always presents this social family with the help of her personal experiences. Once, in a letter to her niece, she wrote that three or four families in a country village were the very thing to work on for her. This selection of some family is definitely the rejection of political changes that were revolutionary in the social framework. Perhaps, its reason was her social set up which she enjoyed in a very small village. Now let’s discuss Austen as an artist of limited range.

First, in so far as the themes of her writings are concerned, she is limited in this range. Her novels are based on three prominent themes i.e. love, money and marriage. All the novels including “Emma”, “Sense and Sensibility”, and “Pride and Prejudice” have these three themes. In “Pride and Prejudice”, these words show the theme of her novel. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Except these themes, she could adopt so many themes around her but she never adopted them to write her novels. Mysticism and spiritual and metaphysical aspects are completely absent from her writings. She could touch the political condition prevailing around her. The period when she was writing was a period of political changes. It was the time of American War of Independence. It was also the period of Napoleonic War but she did not make them the theme of her novels. In “Pride and Prejudice” she is discussing the characters with their gestures and attitudes. That’s why, her novels are called “Domestic Novels.” We always come across beautiful girls who are always in wait for their would be husbands.

Second, Jane Austen is limited in her range as an artist because it is believed that she does not have sense of passions discussed by the Romantics. Although her themes are love, money and marriage, she does not focus on the passion and passionate characters. There are rare occasions where she tries to be passionate however mostly she is not. These rare touches of being passionate are indirect.  That’s why, there is no touch of vulgarity or obscenity in her novels.

Third, Jane Austen is limited in her range as an artist because she is the representative of only “Feminism.” In all her novels, the most dominating characters are of females. Men are present and important but they are in the background and get significance in the company of women. Female characters like Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, Fanny and Emma have become mortal in literature. In “Pride and Prejudice” the character of Elizabeth is amazing for its contribution to the story of the novel. Darcy’s character is exposed through Elizabeth. In “Mansfield Park” the character of Fanny is the most significant of all the other characters. She is the main characters through which everything is being observed in the novel. That is the reason that Jane Austen is blamed for being the representative of ‘feminism’ in her novels. A critic remarks that the readers are in a parlour with the girls when they read Jane Austen’s novels. There are fathers, brothers, sisters and cousins but there are no husbands.

Fourth, Jane Austen is limited in her range as an artist because of her art of characterization. The characters she chooses are always taken from ordinary social life. She is well aware of these characters. She knows every minute details of her characters. Like Chaucer’s characters, they are real. They wander before our eyes as if they were moving, discussing their problems and whispering before our eyes. They are real like Chaucer’s characters and wander before our eyes as if we had been witnessing them moving, discussing their problems and whispering. It shows that she is very close to reality in delineating her characters. Villain like Iago in Othello does not exist anywhere in her novels. Saints, cynics, the king, the queen, passionate people and villains are completely absent in her novels. Wordsworth opines that Jane Austen’s novels are an admirable copy of life.

In the delineation of her characters, she does not pay heed to the personal appearance of her characters, rather she focuses on the inner working of her characters. However, this inner working is disclosed through the incidents taking place in the story of the novel. We can say that heart of characterization is dramatic in approach.

Fifth, Jane Austen is limited in her range as an artist because nature does not have any role to play in her novels. She remains in the four walls of a drawing room, hall or a house. A renowned critic opines: “She never goes out of the Parlour.”

Sixth, Jane Austen’s novels there is no suspense, terrible happenings and something. Everything which we come across in her novels runs smoothly and in a civilized manner. We can find the nature of action taking place in the novel when we see Lydia ready to elope with Wickham. This is the highest extreme of action taking place in her novel.

However, one thing is worth mentioning. There are some who opine that she does not preach morality in her novels. This is not right because all her novels are not without any concern with morality. Although she is limited in her range, she does not spare her characters from being ridiculed. She is ready to laugh at the follies of her characters. However, her purpose is not actually to satirize them in a bitter way, her purpose is to amend their vices. She just wants to teach them how they can improve themselves. Her purpose is to tell people what they should do when they are to marry. She stresses the idea of ‘knowing thyself.’ So, we can say that morality has great concern for her. Similarly, she is blamed for being less passionate. I think, it can be said without any hesitation and fear of contradiction that there is no dearth of emotions in her novels. No piece of literature having theme of love, money and marriage can be without emotions. The passions like jealousy, cunningness, snobbery and pride are very prominent in her novels.

To sum up, we can call Jane Austen ‘the uncrowned monarch’ of characterization, dialogues and story writing. Just like a specialist doctor, she treats a number of patients but treats very well. As a novelist, she is unparalleled, unique and matchless. We fully agree with the remarks of a critic who opines: “Her range is limited but in that there cannot be anything exquisite which she has not employed.”