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‘With reference to “Her First Ball” and at least one other short story from Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party, and to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, compare the ways in which these writers explore and express the hopes a

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Introduction

'With reference to "Her First Ball" and at least one other short story from Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party, and to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, compare the ways in which these writers explore and express the hopes and aspirations of young women. Jane Austen and Katherine Mansfield both choose to portray the position that women hold and the options available to them within the social context of the text. Both write with moral purposes, questioning whether society places women in their rightful role. However, it is more difficult to decipher which moral stance each writer takes as in both pieces, ambiguity and differing opinions are used as literary techniques. Austen presents different options to the reader, not just her own opinion. Mansfield uses ambiguity, Austen uses choice: both leave their readers to make their own decisions. This openness demonstrates how both texts have survived cultural and social boundaries. Jane Austen and Katherine Mansfield differ greatly in social context. Austen writes in the late seventeenth century from an aristocratic background, similar to that demonstrated in her novels. Her lifestyle reflected the Bennets', as Virginia Wolfe comments: 'If jane austen suffered in any way from her circumstances it was in the narrowness of life that was imposed upon her. It was impossible for a woman to go about alone. She never travelled; she never drove through London in an omnibus or had luncheon in a shop by herself.' Austen lived in a time of great social instability following a new way of life being formed through the Industrial Revolution, where a plea for sexual equality in writing would not have been appreciated. ...read more.

Middle

Bennet, 'Oh! Mr. Bennet...we are all in an uproar. You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him, and if you do nt make haste he will change his mind and not have her.' Mansfield portrays the woman who does not marry in her short story, 'The Daughters of the late colonel'. They show an immense dependence on men, or their father in this case. They demonstrate their naivity and a submission that they can now release. For example, 'Do you think we ought to have our dressing gowns dyed as well? ...I was thinking-it doesn't seem quite sincere, in a way, to wear black out of doors and when we're fully dressed, and then when we're at home-' We are also made aware, by both writers, the way women need men, and also the way men use this power or control. For example, in 'Her First Ball', Mansfield describes how the men stand segregated from the women and it was custom for them to ask the women to dance. She shows the constraints of women to social etiquette as she says: 'Why didn't the men begin? What were they waiting for?...Then, quite suddenly, as if they had only just made up their minds that that was what they had to do, the men came gliding over the parquet.' Austen shows the dependence of women on men through the use of Mr. Bennet. Mr. Bennet is needed to introduce the women to Mr. Bingley. He uses this power to 'tease' Mrs. Bennet especially. For example: 'Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? ...read more.

Conclusion

Netherfield, shows how Austen did also strive for perhaps a different type of education for women, similar to men or even more freedom, althoughit is clear that, unlike Mansfield, she acknowledges a need for the stability of a 'prudential' marriage system. In both Mansfield's and Austen's writings, the reader is strongly aware of the way in which women are portrayed. Austen's opening raws our attention to the importance of the marriage system to women: 'it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.' We are constantly reminded in Mansfield's short stories the isolation from society women must face who are not married, such as in 'The Singing Lesson': 'She would have to leave the school, too. She could not face the Science Mistress or the girls after it got known. She would have to disappear somewhere.' Mansfield presents a much more vivid and dark portrayal of the situation of women in society in her day than Austen who uses humour and light-heartedness with her characters. I feel that Mansfield aims for realism, whereas Austen does not show a want for change, especially in her ending. Although years apart, both writers focus on strikingly similar situations: dependence on men, submission and the boundaries surrounding women, enforced by the decorum and etiquette of society. There is great depth of exploration of opinions and realism and ideas are clearly expresses through Austen's characterisation and free indirect discourse, and Mansfield's experimentation with psychological language techniques. The aspirations of women by both writers are explored, but whether they yearned for change or stability, is more difficult to determine. ...read more.

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