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Pride and Prestige: Jane Austen and the Professions

Alice Drum
College Literature
Vol. 36, No. 3 (Summer, 2009), pp. 92-115
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20642039
Page Count: 24
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Pride and Prestige: Jane Austen and the Professions
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Abstract

This essay focuses on Jane Austen's portrayal of the growing prestige of the professions in her later and final novels, "Mansfield Park" (1814), "Emma" (1816), and "Persuasion" (1818). While Austen's early novels focus on a mainly leisure class, the gentry and minor aristocracy, the later novels reflect England's changing landscape during the early nineteenth century. The country was moving steadily then from a primarily agrarian way of life to a culture where industry and profession would assume equal if not paramount importance. Although Austen's novels are often celebrated as portraits of a stable ordered society, each of the later works reveals, in progressive stages, the changing and increasingly significant role that the professions play. No longer simply a source of income for second sons, the professions evolve into part of the identity of professional gentlemen and, finally, in "Persuasion" as an entry for middle-rank professionals into gentry circles.

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