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General > Status of women in English and American society in nineteenth century.

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message 1: by Shashi (last edited Jun 12, 2016 03:14AM) (new)

Shashi Khanka Having read a number of English and American Novels of nineteenth century, I have come to understand that in those times, English society was a very conservative one in which the status of women was not very good. Not only was there significant gender inequality but women were hardly independent in the truest sense of the word. Whereas there are innumerable evidences in various American novels that could be quoted for proving much better status of women in American society of those times, with much more independent spirit and more pronounced individuality. Some American women characters were rather wildly liberal and mentally so strong. If one is to believe that literature is the mirror of society, I would say American society was authentically and most originally liberal in those times.

message 2: by Shashi (new)

Shashi Khanka A woman was judged by her looks, contenance, grace, style, taste, pose and the roots she came from in the english society of nineteenth century. A woman's worth was weighed by the prospects of her getting wed to a gentleaman of rank and status. A highly accomplished woman in those times was the one who had all the traits of style and pose and who could knit, sing, play music and dance. What a pity ! I feel so fortunate not to be born in those times. In the place and times I live, I never felt I was being judged by superificial and stupid things that I have mentioned. Today, these is not a field where only men can work. Women are working with men at par in every field including Armed forces, space science , police etc, something which was unthinkable in the times of Jane Austen.

message 3: by Silvio111 (new)

Silvio111 Hello, I am new to this group, how do you do?

I have been reading Jane Austen since my high school days in the 1960s. I suppose (to use an unfortunate term) her books were the "Chic Lit" of her time.

More than 100 years later, feminist-icon-to-be Virginia Woolf was holding her up as a model to women who wished to create something meaningful of their own because of the way Austen persevered, under difficult conditions with no formal education and certainly no privacy or "room of her own," in writing novels that spoke to women's determination to develop as autonomous beings, given their social settings and lack of financial independence.

This is the reason, to our modern female minds, that the accomplishments held up to women as desirable and necessary (as Shashi says, "to knit, sing, play music and dance") might seem to be "superficial and stupid things."

In fact, every Jane Austen novel follows a formula: There are sisters, of whom some are vain and flighty, and the older ones are always beautiful, modest, and intelligent. The mothers are almost always pathologically focused on marrying off their daughters and never seem to be able to spot the cad. In the end, there is always an anti-social yet rich and principled fellow who wins the older sister in the end.

While I have often rolled my eyes at this formula that Austen persists in indulging, I do see that in her time, it was radical to expose this formula, since her contemporaries saw nothing lacking in a woman who aspired only to get married and thus assure herself a safe, secure environment in which to live out her life.

In that context, the knitting, music, and dance were important tools to ensure happiness for all involved. In our day, we are so caught up with electronics, recorded popular music, and other manufactured entertainments that shockingly few people know how to sing, play an instrument, or construct a garment. Those who do, come to it from a sincere love of these activities, not an external compulsion from parents from an early age to learn them.

I think Jane Austen's books will always be timely because she offers a version of aspiring gracefully to good character that is somewhat comforting in today's world.

message 4: by Jan (new)

Jan Boyd "in her time, it was radical to expose this formula" Exactly Silvio111! She was not advocating for those social conventions, but exposing them and mocking them in some ways. I love that the poor girl with a good sense of humor and wit always wins. :)

message 5: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Osigian | 47 comments Mod
Silvio111 wrote: "Hello, I am new to this group, how do you do?

I have been reading Jane Austen since my high school days in the 1960s. I suppose (to use an unfortunate term) her books were the "Chic Lit" of her ti..."

Hello and welcome!

Jane is so inspiring to me as a young writer! She persevered against all to get her books published, and we reap the benefits of her labor today.

I find your "Austen formula" interesting though because it really only applies to Pride & Prejudice and somewhat to Sense & Sensibility. It forgets matchmaker Emma, flighty Catherine, orphan Fanny, and patient Anne. Their stories are beautiful and their characters all so very different.

Madeline Osigian
Creator & Moderator | The Official Jane Austen Book Club

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