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A Comparison of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen

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Introduction

ADVANCED ENGLISH LANGUAGE ESSAY Of the many authors to emerge during the nineteenth-century, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were among the few who would make a lasting impression on the literary world for generations. Hard Times, often referred to as Dickens' 'Industrial novel' and Austen's Pride and Prejudice have been much read and well-loved classics for many years. It is the purpose of this essay to compare and contrast the different worlds depicted in both Hard Times and Pride and Prejudice. It will also look at the literary development between the early and late nineteenth-century. The essay will end with the examination of the stylistic characteristics of each author. In the world depicted in Hard Times, workers are treated as little more than interchangeable parts in the factory's machinery, given just enough wages to keep them alive and just enough rest to make it possible for them to stand in front of their machines the next day. The town in which the story is set is called Coketown, taking its name from the 'Coke', or treated coal, powering the factories and blackening the town's skies. It is a large fictional industrial community in the north of England during the mid-nineteenth century. In Chapter 5 of the novel, Dickens describes the town as having buildings and streets that looked the same with red brick but were forever masked with smoke. ...read more.

Middle

It was characterised by reliance on the imagination and subjectivity of approach, freedom of thought and expression, and an idealisation of nature. 'The term Romantic first appeared in 18th-century English and originally meant "romance-like", that is, resembling the fanciful character of medieval romances.' (Encarta(r) Encyclopedia). This kind of romance narrative was used by Gothic novelists such as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (1818) and Emily Jane Bront� who wrote Wuthering Heights (1847). Yet novels with more contemporary settings and subjects, novels of manners and of domestic life for example, also have strong, if different, connections to romance conventions. 'The novels of Jane Austen, for example, with their plots concerning love frustrated yet finally fulfilled, have significant affinities to 'romance' conventions. (Bygrave, 1996) In his book, The English Novel, Walter Allen describes Austen as a 'highly sophisticated artist' who was an 'eighteenth-century moralist' and wrote in the style of Dr Johnson, an eighteenth-century author of whom she much admired. Similar to critics such as Charlotte Bront�, Allen does not see Austen as a romantic writer as he declares that 'she had escaped entirely the infection of sensibility and sentimentality; for her those qualities are material only for her satire.' Allen found Austen to be uncompromising in her representation of characters she regarded as foolish. She mocks Mr Colllins and Lady de Borugh in Pride and Prejudice, but she knows her limits unlike Henry Fielding and George Smollet - dramatic satirists who often appeared insensitive. ...read more.

Conclusion

An example of her use of caricature can be seen in the form of Mrs Bennet who appears almost as a caricature throughout the novel and is described as '...a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper'. The book's humour is mostly seen through the dialogue of the narrator, Mr Bennett (whose chief characteristics are an ironic detachment and a sharp, cutting wit) and Elizabeth, who is intelligent and witty and shares her father's irony. Austen satirises snobs in her novels, with particular emphasis on Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins. It would be fitting to conclude this essay with notable comments made by two respected critics of each novel. In his essay on Hard Times, F. R. Leavis declared, 'Of all Dickens's works... [Hard Times is] the one that has all the strength of his genius, together with a strength no other of them can show - that of a completely serious work of art'. (Page, 1985). Sir Walter Scott publicly praised the works of Jane Austen. After her death, he wrote in his private journal, 'Also again, and for the third time at least, Miss Austen's very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.' (Watt, 1963). ...read more.

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