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Jane Austen's Realism

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Jane Austen’s Realism

PSYCHOLOGICAL REALISM: The parenthood of not only the English fiction but also the psychological novel goes to Richardson; and his contemporary, Fielding is the first to write a comedy in English fiction with the deliberate intention of rediculing the sentimental morality of Richardson. The Pamela of Richardson becomes Shamela in Fielding.  Jane Austen, it seems, has combined the task of her two predecessors by writing a kind of fiction which is psychologically realisti. She selected as it were, the good points of both these writers an eschewed all that they did and she could not do. The Richardsonian atmosphere of “a sick room heated by stoves is as conspicuously absent in her novels as the epic width and waster panorama of life of Fielding. In effect, she achieves perfection in her craft by exploring the psychologica possibilities of the comedy of manners.

SENSE OF STAGE-CRAFT AND COMEDY: The realism in Jane Austen is born of the conciousness of her stage-craft and her fine sense of comedy. She is so detached from and fair to her creatures that never for a moment the temptation to blur their outlines overtakes her. While depicting her characters she rarely introduces herself as Fielding had done and Meredith was to do. The dialogues and actions are not the result of her subjective interpretation; they have been recorded directly from life. Although here and there her point of view may find vent through some single character yet her impersonality is well accentuated throughout. She is a minute observer of men and manners and the odd and potentially the comic can scacely escape her sharp and scrutinizing glance. The lack of manners or the oddities of manners are often the resul of a wrong trainning in behaviour. It is the function of comedy to discover theses ladent and un observed eccentricities and inconsistencies and expose them to the irony and comic smile of all those who read and understand them. In order to achieve this she uses sometimes a comic type of character known as Farce already popular I the Restoration drama; but this Farce never produces the horse-laughter. She only casts an arch glance at them and passes on. Her fairness and detachment, not precluding her sympathies also where they are due, help her in achieving a realism which is commonly seen in the comedies of Sheridan and other contemporary dramatists but which was feeblly if ever attempted in Englis fiction by her predecessors.

REALISM DUE TO HER LIMITED COMPASS: Her limited compass and the perfection she achieves within it impart verisimilitude to her fiction. “Three or four families” it has been suggested indirectly by her are her only concern and these are, as it were, x-rayed before us. Each member of these families is personally known to us with all his frailties as well as merits. Shhe presents her characterd not from without but from within and often achieves a marvelos effect by calling up the aid of intuitive understanding which alone can make a character convincing and real. She examines the psychology of her characters less for the grotesque than for satirical purposes. Gross humours and melo dramatic situations are usually discarded by her for the often stand on the brink of tragedy. Tragedy is foreign to Austen, one may suppose, because it is usually far from realism. Tragedy is more common in fiction than in real life. The psychological realism ehich was employed by Richardson and many other writers of fiction till Jane Austen has benn employes by her in an unrivalled and commendable manner.

HER SENSE OF COMEDY: She invariably discovers the comic probabilities in a slight change of behavious or even in the flickering shades and nuances of conduct of people. Clergymen are often a pious subject for comedy and it is not easy to make them victims of it. But the priggishness and worldliness of the contemporary clergymen and the foibles and weakenss of the contemporary society has benn exposed. These weaknesses and frailities have a contemporary interest and reveal the writer’s fondness for realistic presentation.

HER ANTI-ROMANTIC ATTITUDE: No less in her fondness ofr realism intesified by her tastes and temprament which were ggrounded exclusively on the eighteen cetury-an age of reason and also of realism. Her sympathies are infallibly with the neo classical age of Dr. Johnson and Cowper and not with the contemporaray one of Napoleonic wars and Freanch Revolution and of Wordsworth and Coleridge. She naturally prefers precision, exactness and “nature methodised”. Her impersonal attitude has nothing in common with that of Sir Walter Scott or of other writers of sentimental and romantic fiction. Her attitude to all these literary fads is rather negative and even hostile. She could not bend herself to write historical novel inspite oof a royal offer for her to do so. The Gothic fiction is fit for parody only. Her imagination is tied down to the presentaion of exact details as she herself sees them with balanced judgement and finer perceptibilities.

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