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Background Info

Author Bio

Full Name: Jane Austen

Date of Birth: 1775

Place of Birth: Steventon, Hampshire, England

Date of Death: 1817

Brief Life Story: Jane Austen was the seventh child of the parish rector in the town of Steventon, where she and her family resided until moving to Bath in 1801. Though her parents were members of the English gentry, they remained relatively poor. Modest to a fault about the value of her work, Jane Austen nevertheless produced some of the enduring masterpieces of English literature, including the novels Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion. Her novels were published anonymously until after her death, when her authorship became known. While it was not unheard of for women to publish under their own names in Austen's lifetime, it was still a rarity. Despite the fact that her books focus on the intricate rituals of courtship and marriage among the British middle class, Austen herself remained single throughout her life, preferring the life of a writer over that of a wife and hostess.

Key Facts

Full Title: Pride and Prejudice

Genre: Novel of manners

Setting: Hertfordshire, London, and Pemberley, all in England at some time during the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815)

Climax: The search for Lydia and Wickham

Protagonist: Elizabeth Bennet

Antagonist: There is no single antagonist. The sins of pride and prejudice function as the main antagonizing force

Point of View: Third person omniscient

Historical and Literary Context

When Written: 1797-1812

Where Written: Bath, Somerset, England

When Published: 1813

Literary Period: Classicism/Romanticism

Related Literary Works: Between the late 18th and early 19th centuries, English literature underwent a dramatic transition. The 18th century had seen the rise of the novel in the works of writers like Daniel Defoe (Moll Flanders) and Samuel Richardson (Pamela). These novels focused on broad social issues of morality and domestic manners. With the turn of the century and the rise of Romanticism, however, the novel began to explore human relationships with a greater degree of emotional complexity. Neither a Classicist nor a Romantic, Jane Austen is perhaps best thought of as a pioneering figure in the development of the novel, providing the bridge from the often didactic novels of an earlier era to the great works of psychological realism of the Victorian period by writer such as George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

Related Historical Events: Austen's novels are famous for the way they seem to exist in a small, self-contained universe. There are almost no references in her work to the events of the larger world. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Austen's depiction of life in the tranquil English countryside takes place at the same time when England was fighting for its life against the threat of Napoleon, and all of Europe was embroiled in war and political chaos. No mention is ever made of the imminence of a French invasion in her novels. Napoleon was finally defeated by the British at Waterloo in 1815, two years before Austen's death.

Extra Credit

Pride and Silver Screen? Pride and Prejudice was first adapted for movies in a 1940 production starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. It was again filmed in 1995, as a mini-series for A&E Television, featuring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The most recent production stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and was filmed in 2005.

First Impressions: Austen's initial title for her manuscript was "First Impressions." Though the book was eventually published as Pride and Prejudice, the initial title hints at the story's concern for social appearances and the necessity of finding people's true qualities beneath the surface.


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