Jane Austen, born Dec. 16,1775, the daughter of a country clergyman, Austen spent her first 25 years in the village of Steventon in Hampshire. There as a child she wrote sprightly and amusing burlesques of contemporary sentimental fiction and composed early versions of her first three novels. Elinor and Marianne became Sense and Sensibility (1811), First Impressions (c.1796-97) became Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Susan, A Novel in Two Volumes became Northanger Abbey. When her father retired in 1801, the family moved to Bath and then briefly to Southampton. Finally they settled in the small village of Chawton, where Austen spent most of the remainder of her life.
When attempts to interest publishers in her novels failed, Austen published Sense and Sensibility at her own expense in 1811. In Chawton she issued two of her early novels and wrote her three later ones, Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1816), and Persuasion (1818). A final novel, Sanditon, was still unfinished when she died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester (where she is buried in the cathedral). Although Austen never married and led a relatively restricted life, the world of the family, of village life, and of England’s rural gentry withheld few secrets or subtleties from her observant and discriminating eye.
Austen’s works are satirical comedies of the domestic and social life of a limited sphere of English society. Her plots constitute variations on the standard theme of female novelists of the late 18th century, definitively established by Fanny Burney: a young girl’s entry into society climaxed eventually by marriage. Each of Austen’s heroines follows this course, by the end of the novel acquiring a husband, often an older man who has been both father and guide to her as well as lover. Well aware of the limitations of her fiction, Austen likened herself to a painter of miniatures; yet within the confines of her seemingly predictable plots, and narrow focus, she carefully explores, in highly polished, witty, and meticulous style, an important and universal theme, the adjustments the self must make to family and society.
Austen’s early novels look back to the 18th century. Northanger Abbey satirizes the Gothic novel and sentimental friendship, and Sense and Sensibility mocks the cult of sensibility in which personal feeling and spontaneity were valued to the exclusion of social responsibility and self-restraint. Pride and Prejudice, representing the flowering of her early style, is probably Austen’s best-loved work; its vivacious and witty heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, is in the tradition of the articulate women of Restoration and 18th century comedy. Austen’s later works, Mansfield Park and Persuasion, have themes traditionally labeled Victorian; they described the loneliness and repression of young women forced into silence and self-effacement by the social codes prescribing female behavior. Fanny Price and Anne Elliot, for example, must hide their love and wait for their moral strength to be discovered. Emma, the sunniest and most satisfying of Austen’s novels, has something of the sprightliness of Pride and Prejudice but also displays the psychological probing found in the later novels. It is especially skillful in the use of dialogue to convey the mental shifts and starts of its characters.
The story is about the daughter’s of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet whose’s intentions are to have their five daughters married off. When word that a rich single man, Charles Bingley, arrives at nearby Netherfield, they all make plans to meet him. A ball at Meryton introduces the Bingley party to the neighborhood. There they meet Mr. Charles Bingley, his sisters, and his good friend Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. During the ball Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet become attracted to each other. Although “Mr. Darcy is found to be disdainful and arrogant” he becomes interested in Elizabeth Bennet.
Elizabeth continues to be puzzled by Darcy’s behavior. He seems to seek her company, but never says much. She discovers the reason one night when Darcy declares his love and asks her to marry him. “He asks uncourteously, stressing his superiority to her family, and he adds that he has not been able to conquer his imprudent attraction.” Elizabeth is suprised and angry. His pride is unbearable to her, and she refuses him with pleasure. “She accuses him of breaking up Jane and Mr. Bingley and of ruining Wickham. Darcy acknowledges both charges without remorse or explanation and leaves