The Power of Jane Austen’s Novels

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Jane Austen’s career followed novelists such as Ann Radcliffe and Laurence Sterne, at a time when the Gothic and Romance novels were very popular. However, Jane Austen did not look favorably upon these styles, believing them to be harmful to both literature and the reader. In writing her own novels, Austen parodied these genres, but not merely for a humorous effect. She had specific messages that she wanted to get through to her audience, through this method. She wanted to impress upon her reader the value of that which is ordinary, but real, the importance of thinking for oneself, and to make logical judgments of characters. The first emergence of Austen’s use of satire was in her earliest works, the Juvenilia, which she wrote from ages 10 to 15. She was so well-read at such a young age that she was able to effectively parody the works of the famous novelists who came before her, such as Ann Radcliffe. In creating such mockeries, she makes criticisms that seem to serve very specific, crucial purposes in her Juvenilia, as well as her other novels. Jane Austen sought to provide her audience with reading lessons, illustrating clear messages to teach them how to act and judge, not only in literature, but in everyday life. Love and Friendship, contained within Juvenilia, is an example of a parody of sentimentalism. Jane Austen describes overly dramatic scenes, similar to those that one would have read in a sentimental novel. She starts off by addressing the sentimentalist concept of the “perfect heroine.” Laura, the main character who fulfills this stereotype, describes herself early in the novel. “In my Mind, every Virtue that could adorn it was centered; it was the Rendezvous of every good Quality & of every noble sentiment” (p.78,... ... middle of paper ... ...y had no real life applications. They didn’t teach their audiences anything of value. This is likely why Jane Austen wrote her novels in the ways that she did. She includes various passages, characters, plots, and parodies in different ways to remind the reader of the importance of reality. She emphasizes the need to think for oneself, rather than on the basis of books or the word of someone else. She encourages her readers to make judgments based on her characters, using various tools. One might argue that Austen wrote in a very calculated way. Everything she put down on paper served a purpose, to make certain concepts clear and teach her readers things that she believes to be crucial, whether it be pertaining to reading, or in how to act in ones own life. Works Cited Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen Love and Friendship, Jane Austen
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