Jane Austen's contribution to English novel
An objective and impartial estimation of Jane Austen’s contribution to the development of the English novel involve comparisons which are, also, likely to undermine her self-imposed limitations as an artist.
Austen’s range is very narrow. The plots revolve around three or four families in the countryside, consisting mostly of a few typed characters. There is only one theme – the theme of love and marriage – repeated in every novel. Deep philosophy of life is conspicuously absent and there are no hidden meanings to be discovered. There are no adventures to thrill, no violent passions to ruffle, no sensations to tickle and tease. Yet she is one of our major novelists. Safely emerging through two centuries and severe criticism, today she enjoys secure reputation.
Austen’s first important achievement is to bring to the English novel dramatic plots. She has the genius of a great dramatist. Baker successfully verified the plot of “Pride and Prejudice”, in its various stages of development, to the pattern of a five-act play. The unity of purposes, the complete inter-dependence of the main plot and the sub-plots, the perfect association of the action and the characters, dramatic irony and short, engaging dialogues render her plots highly dramatic. To this may be added the objectivity of narration, the complete withdrawal of the creator from the creation, for she hardly speak in her own person to give a direct comment.
Jane Austen has given us a multitude of characters. All of them are commonplace such as we meet everybody.
“Yet they are al perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.”
Remarkably, no two villains are alike, nor two fools for even the greatest novelists are guilty of repetition. However, her real achievement in characterization is the ironic exposition of the ‘follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies’ of human conduct. She excels in the...