Study Guide

Jane Austen Novelist

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In late eighteenth-century England, the novel was considered a lowbrow form of entertainment with not much more literary value than the bodice-ripping harlequin romances now sold in our supermarket checkout lines. "Where the reading of novels prevails as a habit, it occasions in time the entire destruction of the powers of the mind,"blank">Emma). Austen didn't condemn characters who chose to marry for material reasons—she was far too practical for that—but she did make fun of shallow women who thought of nothing else. Women triumphed in Austen's books when they realized that character mattered more than materialism, and when they admitted—as with the proud Elizabeth Bennet or the practical Elinor Dashwood—that it was okay to fall in love.

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