The Idea of Autonomy in Jane Austen’s Novels

The idea of autonomy over one’s actions exists in a peculiar spot within the minds of the characters in Jane Austen’s novels. It exists in a position where characters believe to lack the control over their actions, most properly exemplified by “what could we have done but what we did?” (Love and Friendship 86), a line in Jane Austen’s juvenile story that peers into the seemingly obligatory petrified actions of Laura. She claims that the effect of her circumstances caused her to faint as if she had no choice in the matter. This, of course, given the circumstances, is by nature dramatic, and as a result, sheds a light into the minds of all of Austen’s characters.

The characterization of Laura in Love and Friendship depicts an early moment in Austen’s writing that proves important when understanding future characters in her writing. I intend to look at the novels Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice as instances where Austen utilizes the idea of sensibility to determine the satiric necessity of dramatic actions.


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