Jane Austen, daughter of the rector of Stevenson in North Hampshire, was born there in December 1775. She was well educated, but lived all her life in the country or in country towns, especially Bath Southampton and the village of Chawton close to Alton. She died unmarried in middle life, at Winchester, on 18th July 1817. She had begun to write quite early well before the end of the 18th century, but she found no publisher, and her actual first book, Northanger Abbey, though bought by one in 1797, did not appear till after her death. In 1811, however Sense and Sensibility was issued and was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 (both had been written nearly as early as Northanger Abbey). Mansfield Park appeared in 1814, and Emma two years later. Persuasion, her last completed work was published the year after her death Northanger Abbey, the first begun. Her novels and letters give us an altogether different impression. She appears to be a woman of sensitive, warm nature, capable of strong affection. Her novels reveal ‘a quickness of observation, a sense of the incongruous, and an awareness of the comedy of society.’
Jane Austen's Background
The society that Jane Austen belonged was firmed in class distinction. At that time basically there were distinct classes.
- The land owning aristocracy – The most powerful
- The new prosperous industrialists – Emerging as a powerful class
- The workers and laborers
Jane Austen lived in an age of transition. It was a time in between the Age of Sense and the Age of Sensibility. In her novels she deals with neither the aristocracy at the top or the poor. In most of her novels she gets involve with the upper middle and the middle class with their various involvements, clashes, interests etc. The time that Jane Austen belonged was the time of urbanization, time of industrialization in England. At that time the industries were located in big cities and big cities began to enrich with industrial complexes. As a result of that large number of people shifted from villages to towns. Though it was the era of romanticism Jane Austen was more akin to the eighteenth century neo- classicists in her approach. She believed in order and discipline and upheld the supremacy of the rational faculty. Jane Austen supported the traditional and conventional values unlike the romantics who took nature as a power to stimulate men to better the existing order of things which they saw at that time. Though romantics had a great passion for natural beauty Jane Austen made a very light use of natural setting in her novels.
Jane Austen's Art of Characterization
In her novels Jane Austen took characters from ordinary life. Most of the time there can be seen families in a country village. Her male characters were without any soaring ambitions; females quietly accepted their social position and engaged themselves according to conventional style. Furthermore there cannot be seen eccentric unconventional characters. Yet there can be seen a representation of feminization as most of her novels followed the themes which are interested by women. The range of Jane Austen’s characters is rather narrow. She selected her characters from the landed gentry in countryside. She omits the use of servants, laborers as main characters. She usually presets characters dramatically through conversation, letters and in action. As her characters were not fairy tale figures Jane Austen can be identified as a great realist in art.