Religion, politics and sex : matters of decorum in Jane Austen.

No Thumbnail Available
Taylor, Patricia
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Jane Austen (1775-1817) lived in and wrote about a world much different than the world we know today. In Austen's tiny middle-class universe, many actions were considered decorous or indecorous. It was an age of deportment, and one's manners were seen to reflect one's morals. Like the early eighteenth-century writer Samuel Johnson, Austen was concerned with how people ought to behave; her mind and her art clung to the tradition of didacticism.
Anyone familiar with the novels of Austen knows that her treatment of such subjects as religion, politics, and sex is unlike that of some contemporary and most successive novelists. She avoids religious debate and the particulars of Christian doctrine; she gives no representation of sexual passion at its feverish height; and she conspicuously avoids political controversy.
Critics sometimes condemn Austen's omissions of explicit discussions of religion, politics, and sex, blaming these omissions on ignorance of or distaste for the themes. The requirements of art are different from the requirements of life, and writers frequently write about what they are good at writing about, given their choice of genre and mode, and not necessarily about what they are most interested in. If Austen's talent or literary disposition was suited to didacticism, she finds clever and efficient ways to display her art. Austen, through narrative technique, inwardness of the action, and witty use of irony and implication creates effects that require no explicit discussion of religion, politics, and sex.