Study Guide

Austenland Society and Class

By Shannon Hale

Society and Class

Picking up Jane at her apartment rather than meeting at the restaurant was a ploy to show Carolyn her great-niece's shameful living conditions. (1.11)

From the first chapter, we're made aware that Jane's mom does not approve of Jane's lower-class lifestyle. Unlike in Pride and Prejudice,where women typically move up in social class, Jane seems to lead a less lavish lifestyle than the one she was brought up in. We don't mind, but her mom sure makes a big deal about it.

Spinster is just an archaic term for "career-minded." (1.45)

Jane says this, but we're not sure if she's convinced. To us, it seems that she feels like a second-class citizen without a man.

You are aware that at this time a lady of thirty-three would be an affirmed spinster and considered unmarriageable. (3.23)

Mrs. Wattlesbrook is trying to convince Jane to pretend to be younger. She throws in this nice historical tidbit to remind us that thirty-three was ancient in the 1800s.

You are not our usual type of guest and there is no chance, given your economic conditions, that you would ever be a repeat client or likely to associate with and recommend us to potential clients. (3.37)

Dang. Mrs. Wattlesbrook doesn't mince words with the common folk. Her behavior illustrates how the upper class can do whatever they want to the lower class without consequence.

Mr. Nobley, of course, is most respectable. [...] No title, but an old, solid family name and wonderful lands. He will be a steadying influence on the colonel. (4.90)

Here's another nice Austenian tidbit. Since we don't have Mrs. Bennet constantly crowing about income and reputation, we're reminded that it's a big deal to be a respectable gentleman.

The entire conversation felt forbidden, like a secret Austen chapter that she discovered in some forgotten file. (5.27)

We're not sure if Jane Austen would ever would have written about a romance between a lady and a servant. Maybe a lost episode of Downton Abbey would be a more apt comparison.

It is not proper for a lady to be out alone after dark and worse to cavort with the servants. (9.33)

Note the verb choice here. We doubt Jane would be accused of "cavorting" if she were socializing with the gentleman as opposed to the servants.

Jane asked a maid to bring in tea (and felt pretty cool being the lady of the house for a moment). (10.52)

It seems the whole "invisible servant class" thing isn't that troubling to Jane when they're serving her.

I wanted to make sure you knew that even though you are not our Ideal Client, we still made every arrangement possible for your comfort and entertainment. (19.62)

Once again, Mrs. Wattlesbrook steps in to bookend the novel with a little bit of the social criticism that Jane Austen excelled at. Ol' Wattles thinks that she can do whatever she want to Jane without any repercussions. We're glad Jane shows her up in the end.