Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth, two of the most beloved and influential novelists of their time, exist in the same writing genre, one that deals with classism, wealth, and marriage. Although the two writers grapple with similar ideals, they differ in their approach. One such difference is Edgeworth’s distinct interaction with concepts such as racism and imperialism. On the other hand, Austen mostly fails to discuss these concepts. Instead, she focuses on the internal factors compliant in her society.
One instance in which imperialism is depicted by Edgeworth is through the blue macaw. The blue macaw existed as an annoyance to Lady Delacour, a loud screeching mockery of her sensibility. The history behind the blue macaw is a peculiar one. In fact, it stems back to the roots of colonialism, the blue macaws having been taken from their home in South America and transported by ship back to England.
Lady Delacour’s annoyance with the bird exists as a symbolic representation of this colonialism, and the irritation with any foreign entity that changes the day to day of the British in any fashion. When Lady Delacour exclaims “Oh, that odious macaw!… I can endure it no longer… It kept me from sleeping all night” (Edgeworth 162) she is putting her needs first over the macaw’s. And when presented with the easy solution of closing her door, Lady Delacour refuses to hear it. Therefore, Lady Delacour’s reaction the macaw openly speaks to the idea of colonialism in Edgeworth’s writing.
On the other hand, Austen (I argue purposefully) ignores the external flaws associated with society at the time. In itself, that appears to be a critique on the society, one that is so lavish that it fails to recognize the problematic virtues it’s based upon. Austen and Edgeworth, although existing in largely the same thread, make different cases and critiques of society, thus creating a schism of novelty.
Edgeworth, Maria. Belinda. Wells and Lilly, 1975.