Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

George McCelvey, Nancy Davis, Robert Ward

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Jane Austen's attitude toward the position of middle-class women at the end of the eighteenth century is examined in the context of her life and thought and the women characters in her six novels. Comparisons are made with the position of women today regarding marriage, work, and the goals of the women's liberation movement. Jane Austen shared with feminists a recognition of the need for self-fulfillment. Because she was a realist, she provided fulfillment for her heroines through the only vehicle that was available to most women of her time--marriage. The solution she worked out for satisfying this need in her own life was to maintain her identity as single women, a member of a family and community, while writing under the protection of anonymity. This compromise was necessary at a time when women's opportunities for meaningful work were severely limited. Because of the nature of her genius, she was able to work within the confines of society, but she was acutely aware that most women were not so fortunate. The young women in her novels ask repeatedly when men will learn to seek rational women companions rather than elegant females. he latter had been encouraged by men to subvert their intelligence, thereby weakening their integrity, a situation which Jane Austen deplored. were she alive today, she would welcome the widening opportunities for women to develop as complete human beings.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History | Literature in English, British Isles | Women's History | Women's Studies