Class In Jane Austen's Sense And Sensibility

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An understanding of the importance given to class and social structures during the Georgian era is essential when analysing the socio-historical context in the works of esteemed female author, Jane Austen. Her inherent distinction of class is said to be the main source of much of the comedy and irony that is present throughout her works. Society in England during Austen’s era was highly centred around the social lives of the landed gentry and this is thematised in many of her novels. The role of the author is to give existence to a certain social or political position within the narrative of any given text. Austen as an author focused solely on depicting the social lives of the upper middle class in Britain at the time. It is often simple for…show more content…
The novel is centred around the dichotomy between sense and sensibility and Austen conveys this distinction with the use of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor, the eldest of the two sisters represents sense as she possesses more responsible qualities such as restraint and reason. Marianne however contrasts completely as she represents sensibility within the narrative as her decisions are always fueled by her emotions. Critic George E. Haggerty discusses the contrast between the two female characters, “Marianne becomes the sullen guardian of her own emotions, while Elinor accepts the implications of "polite" society and soldiers on,” (221). Austen highlights the differences between Marianne and Elinor’s personalities when the sisters demonstrate their conflicted views on society at the beginning of the novel. Elinor believes that if one holds social ranking within society this does not guarantee that they possess plausible morals, “I am afraid, replied Elinor, that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety," (13). Marianne heavily disagrees as she believes that one cannot achieve a respected position within society if they do not possess a good moral compass, "on the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor; for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I…show more content…
The character of Marianne in the novel represents Austen’s modernistic way of thinking. Marianne refuses to marry for the sake of attaining a position within high society, she has selected the ways in which she presents herself, and with choice must come responsibility. Austen’s novel breaks away from the traditions at the time through the discourses she represents in it. Critic David Kaufmann notes, “Sense and Sensibility bodies forth the discomfort that arises from the break with authority and the past,” (400). Austen constructs the role of a modern author by defying the norms of her time within the narrative of the novel, “Sense and Sensibility confronts us with the as-yet unsolved project of our modernity,” (Kauffmann, 404). For Austen both sense and sensibility are akin to one another and it is only when a balance between the two is obtained, one can achieve happiness. Sense and Sensibility as well as questioning the figures of authority, is Austen’s attempt at reshaping the ideas surrounding class structure at the position of women in the upper middle class society at the
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