English author who lived in the late 18th/early 19th century and wrote six novels between 1790 and 1817 before dying at the age of 41. Her books were published anonymously during her lifetime, but she is now one of the most famous authors in the English language.
Her novels all follow a similar formula: gentlewoman sooner or later falls in love with man but can't marry him because he's engaged to someone else/he's in love with someone else/etc. Often there are cads to tempt her as well, but ultimately she ends up with the good guy who won't steal all her money and/or abandon her somewhere. There's far more variety among her heroines in terms of personality, though. She specialized in two types: the lively, witty, restless heroine who never fears to speak her mind (Elizabeth Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse); and the quiet, Stoic Woobie who rarely if ever speaks her mind since everyone misjudges her anyway (Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot).
Austen is well-known for her wit, satire, and proto-feminism; serious critics consider her to be the equal of Cervantes, Milton, and Shakespeare. Virginia Woolf called her the first truly great female author, and the first good English author to have a distinctly feminine writing style. Rex Stout considered her the greatest English writer ever -- yes, even above Shakespeare. Heady praise from a man who claimed to have previously believed that men did everything better than women.
Jane Austen also has the distinction of being one of the few classic authors beloved by both the academy (her novels are a popular choice for School Study Media) and popular culture, thanks to the devoted Austen fan community who call themselves "Janeites." Her novels are also frequently adapted into films, especially Pride and Prejudice and Emma (which was also the inspiration for Clueless).
The novels, in order of publication:
- Sense and Sensibility
- Pride and Prejudice
- Mansfield Park
- Northanger Abbey
- Lady Susan - an early Epistolary Novel published by her nephew in 1871
Persuasion was published posthumously by her brother in a volume along with Northanger Abbey, although the latter was actually the first she completed (Jane herself often wondered why its initial publisher paid for the book and then didn't publish it). There's also lots of juvenalia that she probably didn't expect anyone to read (outside her closest family), let alone publish, and two unfinished novels called The Watsons, which she abandoned in the wake of her father's death, and Sanditon, left unfinished by her own death.
Appearances in other media:
- This Hark! A Vagrant comic.
- The film Becoming Jane is loosely based on her life.
- She's in Hell in Old Harry's Game.
Her novels provide examples of:
- Arranged Marriage: As an obstacle to be overcome.
- Betty and Veronica: The heroine always has one of each (except Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, but Marianne still qualifies). As one of Austen's major themes is "bad boys will not change for a girl," she will always choose the Betty. Don't worry about this being a spoiler, though; Austen usually tries to deceive the readers for a while about which love interest is the more "amiable" one. A few of her books also give this dilemma to a male character.
- The Casanova: A standard Austen antagonist.
- Character Development: In addition to heroines like Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, and Catherine Morland growing up and changing some of her underlying views about the world and herself, each heroine's significant other usually needs to change before they can live Happily Ever After -- Edward Ferrars needs to grow a spine and stand up to My Beloved Smother (which he does), Edmund Bertram needs to grow a brain and stop being duped by The Vamp (which he does), and Mr. Darcy needs to stop being such a brooding loner and start being a gentleman (which... doesn't matter to modern female readers anyway).
- Clingy Jealous Girl
- Conversational Troping
- Daddy's Girl
- Dances and Balls
- Deadpan Snarker: Her narrative persona as well as many characters.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: In The Jane Austen Book Club, the characters all participate in storylines which deliberately call back to one of her novels - sometimes with bonus crossover craziness as well!
- Double In-Law Marriage
- Fan Community Nicknames: "Janeites".
- First Love: An important element in the novels of Jane Austen, who uses the First Love trope often under the role of Wrong Guy First, and her examples are as follows: In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy is infatuated with Wickham before she eventually realizes that he is not a decent person and that Darcy, a man she scorned, is a true gentleman. The concept of the first love is also humorously undermined when Mr. Collins rapidly transfers his affections from Jane to Lizzy to Charlotte Lucas. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne has to move past Willoughby before appreciating the worth of Colonel Brandon. Prior to the story beginning, Edward Ferrars has imprudently gotten engaged to Lucy Steele, which prevents him from courting Elinor. These are all examples of First Loves going wrong, but Austen also has a few examples among her repertoire of First Love turning out right: In Persuasion, Anne's early romance with Captain Wentworth had been scuttled by her family, but she never forgot him. Their paths cross again years later and she has to watch him court others before eventually winning him back. In Emma, Emma thinks she's in love with Frank Churchill, but when she discovers her true feelings for another she realises she never really loved Frank. Meanwhile, she persuades Harriet that her first love wasn't good enough for her, so Harriet sets her sights on various unattainable men before gratefully accepting her first love's proposal again. In Mansfield Park, Edmund has to get burned by Mary Crawford before he recognises Fanny's worth and Fanny is almost tempted away from Edmund, her first love, by Mary's brother Henry.
- Foregone Conclusion: The lovers will get together and live Happily Ever After. The question is, how? (And as shown above, which lovers?)
- Genre Savvy
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Perhaps most evident in her unfinished novel The Watsons, but seen at times in the others as well.
- Gold Digger: Common in her fiction: often male, often subtle enough that modern readers might not even notice.
- Good Looking Privates: Military officers appear in several of the stories, often described as quite handsome.
- Gossipy Hens: Sometimes portrayed sympathetically.
- The Hedonist
- Hidden Depths: First impressions are wrong more often than not.
- Historical Beauty Update: She's played by Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane.
- Inverted in Old Harry's Game.
- Hypocritical Humor
- Inherited Illiteracy Title: Love and Freindship, a slightly odd example in that the "illiteracy" is Austen's, kept by editors because it's thought to be charming. Hey, she was only fourteen when she wrote it. See also the "Rouge Angles Of Satin" entry below.
- Lemony Narrator
- Literary Mash Ups: As of Sept. 2010, every one of her novels except Persuasion has followed the lead of Pride and Prejudice And Zombies.
- Love Dodecahedron
- Love Triangle
- Marry for Love: Most, if not all, of her protagonists have a desire to do this.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Catherine Moreland, Elizabeth Bennet, and Fanny Price have them, as do Emma Woodhouse's nieces and nephews.
- May-December Romance: In keeping with the common practice of the day, there is sometimes a considerable age gap between the lovers in Austen's stories. One example would be Colonel Brandon of Sense and Sensibility, who at the age of thirty-seven married nineteen-year-old Marianne.
- Missing Mom: A common, though not universal, feature of an Austen heroine. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy and Jane's mother, Mrs. Bennet, is a model of selfish impropriety (despite her legitimately insecure circumstances); Mansfield Park shows Mrs. Price and Lady Bertram as manifestly incompetent; and Lady Elliot from Persuasion and Mrs. Woodhouse from Emma are both dead.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Part of her Signature Style is the great disillusionment characters suffer regarding some part of their worldview or conduct. C. S. Lewis saw this trope as the key to her works.
- The major exception to this trope is Anne Elliot, who exchanges it for I Regret Nothing by the end of her story. The change is logical enough, as this trope sums up her inner monologue, more or less, for the first nearly-all of the novel. Elinor Dashwood also seems to be an exception, though since her novel has dual heroines, one who fits and one who doesn't, the exception isn't as obvious as Anne Elliot.
- The Noun and the Noun
- Only Sane Man: Either the heroine, or the heroine and her significant other -- hence, the mutual attraction. The exception is Emma, where the heroine herself is wackier than most of her neighbors, leaving this role to Mr. Knightley.
- Parental Favouritism
- Parental Marriage Veto
- Regency England
- Rich Bitch: There's one in most of the novels, but of particular note is Emma, where she's the heroine -- and there's a second Rich Bitch played straighter.
- Romantic False Lead:
- Everyone heroine has at least one. For Marianne, there's Willoughby; for Elizabeth, Wickham; for Fanny, Henry Crawford; for Emma, Frank Churchill; for Catherine, John Thorpe and for Anne, William Elliot.
- The boys often have one, too. Edward Ferrars has Lucy Steele, James Morland has Isabella Thorpe and Edmund Bertram has Mary Crawford.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Something of a subversion. Austen's works are littered with what would be considered misspellings by today's standards. What is important to remember is that at the time that she was writing, the English language had not yet been standardized and variations in spelling, punctuation, etc. were widely accepted.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules: Marrying for love frequently requires this.
- Self-Made Man: Austen was a major advocate for them.
- Sibling Rivalry
- Sibling Yin-Yang
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man
- Spoof Aesop
- Take That: At All Girls Want Bad Boys, Arranged Marriage, Love At First Sight and Brainless Beauties, for starters.
- They Do
- The Unfavourite
- Word of God: The futures of many of the characters, particularly secondary characters, are left unexplained in the stories. Fortunately for us, Austen had several nieces and nephews who were big fans of Aunt Jane's writing, and the letters she wrote to them explain what happened to several characters after the ends of the books.
- Wrong Guy First