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Morals and Manners in Jane Austen

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Introduction

SCHILD Saturday 5th January 2008 Amber TS1 Manners and Morals For Jane Austen, manners are more important than morals. Discuss. Manners are the prevailing customs, ways of living and habits of a people, class or period while morals are principles or habits based on ideas of right and wrong. In the early 19th century, the period in which Jane Austen's novels are set, it was important to follow the established "good" manners. Well-mannered members of the gentry and the aristocracy spoke and acted with modest confidence, used proper language, were well educated, maintained emotional control and were considerate to others. They also followed the protocol concerning social status such as the way they addressed each other, bowing and curtseying etc. Manners are constantly present in Jane Austen's novels. Whenever a character is described their manners are invariably mentioned, for example, in Persuasion when Anne meets Captain Harville for the first time he is described as "not equaling Captain Wentworth in manners, [but] a perfect gentleman, unaffected, warm and obliging". The continuous occurrence of descriptions of manners gives the reader the impression that, for Jane Austen, good manners are vital, as opposed to morals which are mentioned much less frequently.. Indeed, Jane Austen's characters generally follow the protocol or social code of her time. ...read more.

Middle

What is more he admits that he behaved improperly with Louisa Musgrove having "not considered that [his] excessive intimacy must have its danger of ill consequence in many ways; and that [he] had no right to be trying whether [he] could attach [himself] to either of the girls, at the risk of raising even an unpleasant report, were there no other ill effects". However, his reaction to the realisation of the consequences of his behaviour (that he would marry Louisa if she wanted him to) shows that he is in fact a gentleman with good morals. Indeed, while Jane Austen's flawed heroes and heroines make them more credible as people to the reader, while their recognition of their own faults also implies their moral superiority to those who do not recognise their mistakes. Thus, to a certain extent, Jane Austen can show a character's moral worth through their manners. However, their manners do not always match up to their value as a "person", which is why certain characters, while possessing good manners are not always liked. This can be attributed to their morals. As already shown, manners, or a character's reactions to their own manners, can be an indicator of their moral values. However, this is not always the case. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet, she accords even more importance to manners by sometimes making them, along with morals, a part of the actual storyline. However, the unlikeable immoral characters we find in Austen's novels, the importance of morals to the whole plot as opposed to small parts of it (particularly in Pride & Prejudice), and the value accorded to open manners which evidence someone's morals cannot be ignored. Indeed, while manners seem to be most important in everyday life, and first introductions in Austen's novels, it is morals which seem to be most important overall,, which is why a character with bad morals is always disliked in the end (whether they have good manners or not) and the changing and evaluation of a character's morals morals of the characters are often part of the driving force of the plot. The reader could ask themselves why, if morals are so important, Jane Austen does not refer to them more. This is because it would be less credible to always talk about them morals as well as less interesting for the reader, turning the books from a story into a sermon. Austen must content herself with criticising bad morals (and bad manners) through her characters and the ironic humour of herthe narrators. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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