Portrait of Austonian Parenting

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Rebecca Hundley Dr. Dana Gliserman-Kopans Special Topics in Literature: Jane Austen December 7, 2012 Portrait of Austonian Parenting It is impossible to overlook the matter of inadequate parenting in Jane Austen Novels. “One wonders how such delightful, wise, and witty heroines can be the offspring of such vain, silly, and inept parents” (Gee 1). I theorize that every heroine of Miss Austen’s imagination was reared by an inadequate parental role model. By example, I simply wish to illustrate that not only are Austonian parents unequal to the task of effective parenting, but that they are delineated in caricature- lacking human characteristics that might have helped readers to identify with them in some way. Miss Austen’s body of work is rife with flawed parent-child relationships. For our Heroines, marriage was the only escape. In this essay I will review the parent figures in Persuasion, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice. Anne and Emma are motherless, and while both girls are burdened by ineffective juvenile fathers, their households couldn’t differ more. Manheimer believes that although ‘standard rhetoric’ would render a motherless child vulnerable, “nineteenth century novels resound with the success of orphans” (533), and though this could be true for Emma Woodhouse it was certainly not beneficial to Anne Elliot. No excuse can be made for the Bennett’s, but they certainly provide the most amusing display of bad parenting within the Austen stable. Manheimer also asserts that “Terrible mothers are often inadvertently helpful to their daughters” which she strongly makes a case for in the realm of Mrs. Bennett (530). The Bennett’s Pride and Prejudice is universally accepted as a love story; the love story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. It’s easy to make the assumption that these two characters, having had an antagonistic first encounter, must
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