The Authorial Voice and the Heroine's Point of View
That young lady has a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of description and sentiment, is denied me.' [Sir Walter Scott]
Jane Austen (1775-1817) wrote comic novels about domestic and provincial life among the privileged classes in England in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. Her subject matter is narrow compared to that of many other novelists, and she has sometimes been criticised for this, on the grounds that she disregarded the wider political and social issues of her day.
There is no doubt that the world of her novels is limited, but this was deliberate on her part. She portrayed the section of society and types of character with which she was most familiar. She wrote in a letter to her sister that, 'three or four families in a country village is just the thing to work on', and likened herself to a miniaturist, describing her books as: 'little bits (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush'. [Quoted in Southam]
There are many arguments in favour of her decision to work within these limits. One is that the kind of women she is describing would almost certainly not have discussed political issues, so it would have been unrealistic to have her female characters do so. The men may well have discussed politics, but not with the women, and Jane Austen never writes scenes with only men present, for the simple reason that she could never have witnessed such a scene herself.
Another argument in her favour is that her novels are masterful works of art, containing nothing superfluous, and to have introduced material that was not directly relevant to her central theme - personal...