Death and the Concept of Woman's Value in the Novels of Jane Austen

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Jane Austen sprinkles deaths throughout her novels as plot devices and character indicators, but she does not tackle death directly. Yet death pervades her novels, in a subtle yet brutal way, in the lives of her female characters. Austen reveals that death was the definition and the destiny of women; it was the driving force behind the social and economic constructs that ruled the eighteenth-century woman's life, manifested in language, literature, religion, art, and even in a woman's doubts about herself. In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland discovers that women, like female characters in gothic texts, are written and rewritten by ... continued below

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iv, 233 leaves

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Moring, Meg Montgomery, 1961- December 1996.

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This dissertation is part of the collection entitled: UNT Theses and Dissertations and was provided by UNT Libraries to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 94 times , with 7 in the last month . More information about this dissertation can be viewed below.

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  • Moring, Meg Montgomery, 1961-

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Description

Jane Austen sprinkles deaths throughout her novels as plot devices and character indicators, but she does not tackle death directly. Yet death pervades her novels, in a subtle yet brutal way, in the lives of her female characters. Austen reveals that death was the definition and the destiny of women; it was the driving force behind the social and economic constructs that ruled the eighteenth-century woman's life, manifested in language, literature, religion, art, and even in a woman's doubts about herself.
In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland discovers that women, like female characters in gothic texts, are written and rewritten by the men whose language dominates them. Catherine herself becomes an example of real gothic when she is silenced and her spirit murdered by Henry Tilney. Marianne Dashwood barely escapes the powerful male constructs of language and literature in Sense and Sensibility. Marianne finds that the literal, maternal, wordless language of women counts for nothing in the social world, where patriarchal,figurative language rules, and in her attempt to channel her literal language into the social language of sensibility, she is placed in a position of more deadly nothingness, cast by society as a scorned woman and expected to die. Fanny Price in Mansfield Park is sacrificed as Eve, but in her death-like existence and in her rise to success she echoes Christ, who is ultimately a maternal figure that encapsulates the knowledge of the goddess, the knowledge that from death will come life. Emma Woodhouse in Emma discovers that her perfection, sanctioned by artistic standards, is really a means by which society eases its fears about death by projecting death onto women as a beautiful ideal. In Persuasion, Anne Elliotfindsthat women endure death while men struggle against it, and this endurance requires more courage than most men possess or understand. Austen's novels expose the undercurrent of death in women's lives, yet hidden in her heroines is the maternal power of women—the power to bear children, to bear language and culture, to bear both life and death.

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iv, 233 leaves

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  • December 1996

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  • March 24, 2014, 8:07 p.m.

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  • June 23, 2015, 10:22 a.m.

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Moring, Meg Montgomery, 1961-. Death and the Concept of Woman's Value in the Novels of Jane Austen, dissertation, December 1996; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc278475/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .