Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

For this week’s major writing assignment I have been asked to write a five page paper for my Jane Austen and the 18th Century course. As a graduate student I am expected to create my own topic and to bring in an additional source to analyze from outside the books assigned for class. To fulfill these two fairly simple requirements I decided that it would be interesting to compare Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship to Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. The focus of my comparison would include the choice of literary form and how each main character’s style and “art” appeals to the sensibilities of their readers.

At the moment I have a decent collection of quotes and ideas of what I want to do with this paper but I am having minor difficulties with writing out an acceptable introduction to the whole thing. I have been informed many times that I don’t have to write the introduction before writing the body of a paper but my personal preference is to work my way through from start to finish instead of jumping around.

So, where to start? I know that during the 18th century it was difficult to survive as a woman unless you were connected to a man or some wealthy family–and even then a comfortable life was never guaranteed thing. But do I want to include this awareness in the introduction? Or, should I start with a much more direct attack at the 18th century conceptions of “art” and “sensibility” and how the written word was a method through which women of ill repute could use a certain degree of art in their writing in order to appeal to the sensibilities of their intended readers?

My gut is telling me to go with the second option–especially after going back and reading that last paragraph. Below will be my rambling attempts at an introduction to my paper:

In the struggle to survive on their own in a male and money dominated culture, women of the eighteenth century had limited morally acceptable choices–especially when their family’s social and economic status were taken into account. The primary choice for all was to find an advantageous marriage in which their money needs would be provided for by their husbands while they cared for the house and family. For those born into titled and wealthy families this expectation of matchmaking was a given and yet if a match could not be made those old maids in the making had the security of a home and yearly allowance. However, what about the gray area of social status given to those girls (soon to be women) who were raised within the sphere of the privileged families but held no claim to title or fortune? Their morally correct options could range from marriage like their better endowed peers to stepping down in station by becoming a governess or going into service in another household.


In the struggle to survive on their own, women of the eighteenth century often had to rely on the kindness of friends, family, and strangers depending on their social position—or lack thereof. Sometimes this reliance was wholly acceptable and received without any true art of persuasion or application to the sensibility of their relatives—as was the case of characters like Fanny Price from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion. But, as made wholly apparent by the stories told by Laura from Love & Friendship and Moll Flanders in the novel that bears her name, not all women had the privilege of a wholly supporting adopted family combined with an honest steadfastness in “temper” to maintain them. Instead, these two women find themselves in more desperate circumstances in which their ideas of sensible necessity drive them to take certain unsavory actions in order to obtain monetary support of the lifestyle they felt was deserved. In their respective novels (or a collection of letters in the case of Laura), these two women attempt to explain the winding course of their lives as a lesson to their intended readers. These creations—supposedly penned by their own hand—represent the use of a written application of art in which appeals to the sensibilities of their readers.

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