1. JANE AUSTEN AS A NOVELIST
Jane Austen is a renowned novelist in the history of literature. With great qualities of writing like Chaucer and Shakespeare, she has a great status in the world of writing. One thing that strikes me is her limited range whether she is concerned with the theme, dialogues, characterization or presentation of her works. The qualities which she possessed are enough to entitle her one of the greatest novelists in the history of literature. To study her role as a novelist, let’s go through the details what have made her an enviable novelist.
The first major characteristic that also distinguishes her from almost all the writers is her limited range. She does not select the common themes which have been the first priority of any writer. She has been eager to discuss the social issues of some families. That was her taste in writing which she never gave up. All the novels i.e. “Emma”, “Sense and Sensibility” and Pride and Prejudice” have themes of love, money and marriage. There is no touch of mysticism, spiritual or metaphysical aspects. She does not like to narrate the stories of kings, queens, princes, great villains and heroes in her novels. A renowned critic says: “We don’t find politics and adventures in her novels. Abstract ideas and spiritual issues are also completely absent.”
Secondly, she is a great moralist although her range of morality is not wide. That’s why, often she is blamed for being away from morality. It is not right because she preaches morality in almost all her novels. She has never written a single piece of writing without morality. She discusses the issues of families, issues of marriage, love and money. She, in the end gives preference to the mutual understanding between the couples not money and status. We can say that she rejects the importance of money in marriage. It also shows that she does not want to see class-distinction in her society. She wants to remove it forever and ever.
Thirdly, in so far as the plot construction is concerned, she weaves her story in a perfect manner. If we study one of the greatest novels written by her named “Pride and Prejudice”, the warp and woof of the story is outstanding. The main theme of the plot is no doubt ‘marriage.’ At the outset of the novel, she narrates to us the theme of the novel in the following words. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a good fortune must in want of a wife.” The first ball at the start of the story takes place at Netherfield. Here Darcy who is proud and Elizabeth who is prejudiced are at polls apart from each other. All the events in the story follow it. They come closer to each other and understand each other’s nature. Other characters and their relation with each other have also been woven skillfully.
Fourthly, she has a very realistic approach in her art of characterization. She does not pay too much attention to the physical appearance of her characters rather she throws light on the inner feelings of her characters. She plays with their feelings and discloses their inner working in a realistic manner. Mr. Darcy represents persons who are high minded and represent universal male dominating approach. It is very obvious when he says: “I have been selfish all my life in practice but not in principle.” Similarly, Wickham appears before us as a flirt who is selfish, apathetic and unprincipled. He is graceful to look at, but at heart he is an unredeemed villain. Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet are typical father and mother. Another thing that is considered a flaw in her novels is hers being feminist in her novels. She does not give great consideration to male characters. She pays full attention to her female characters. Men appear in her novels but they are not the dominating characters in her novels. That’s why, her female characters are more important than the male characters. In characterization, she has another specialty. She never repeats a single character in all her novels. Every character stands individually.
In so far as irony is concerned in Jane Austen’s novels, she is perfect in this art. We observe all the kinds of irony i.e situational, verbal and dramatic irony in her novel. In “Pride and Prejudice”, we see frequent use of irony as compared to all the other works. One perfect example of verbal irony can be seen in the very opening line of the book, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The irony in this line is that, while the women of an English village in Austen’s time might “acknowledge” the truth above, the wealthy men the line is referring to actually might not; therefore, the above is not really a “truth universally acknowledged.” Instead, this opening line is a perfect example of sarcasm, or verbal irony, and a perfect example of Austen’s wit. Irony in her hands is not a tool to show prejudice against her characters. She discloses their follies but in doing so she does not want to show hatred for them rather she laughs at their follies. She wants to expose hypocrisy, pretentiousness, snobbery and absurdity of her characters. Walter Allen fully favours her and declares that she is the most forthright moralist in English. We can say that she uses irony just as a tool to preach morality.
To sum up, we can say that no doubt she is limited in her range but it is not a flaw rather it is a quality that I think is the greatest quality of Jane Austen. Within her limited range, she is perfect in her art. No doubt, she is limited in her range but she employs everything that should be employed. She is skillful and has a great command over the task she is handling. She is just like a specialist doctor who does not examine a great number of patients rather she examines a number of patients but treats very well. We can sum up our discussion with the words of praise said by Wordsworth who says: “All her novels are an admirable copy of life.” (Words: 1049)