You are on page 1of 14

Introduction

Feminism, the concept that emerged as a result of the eighteenth century feminist
movement, was a step that women took towards the problem concerning their status in a
society governed by men. They decided that it was about the time to be regarded as the equals
of men they wanted liberty and equality. It is no coincidence that the supporters of the
French Revolution had the eact claims, only that they were for men. In fact, the Declaration
of the Rights of Woman and Citizen was the natural consequence of The Declaration of the
Rights of Man and Citizen which represented the starting point of the French Revolution. The
fact that the feminist movement started in France has no importance! supposed it started
anywhere else in "urope it would have had the same consequences.
#y work is intended as a purely historical and literary account of the feminist
movement. The purpose of the present work is to trace the development of this feminist
movement and present the attitudes of $ritish women writers towards this issue. %s an
introduction to the sub&ect I have decided to pay some attention to historical contet in which
the feminist movement took place. The French Revolution was the perfect medium and the
perfect atmosphere for such a movement to take place and women knew how to take
advantage of the opportunity. They had not only 'cried( for their rights but also fought for
them, physically. Their uproar was one of a person who had been, or at least had considered
herself, a 'slave( for centuries. The French women)s 'cry( was heard by their $ritish fellow*
women who were very quick in giving their reply. The $ritish women writers) response to the
feminist 'awakening( and how feminism further influenced the country)s culture will occupy
the ma&or part of my work. There would be many aspects to be brought under discussion but I
have set my mind on two women personalities of the time, whose attitudes best serve the
purpose of this paper+ #ary ,ollstonecraft and -ane %usten. %lthough my wish is to remain
impartial to the sub&ect*matter I believe it safe to assert that feminism is a significant sub&ect
not only for .reat $ritain)s literature but also for its culture. ,omen)s rights, especially the
right to get involved in the political life, were not abandoned to their written form but actually
appropriated if we think of #argaret Thatcher, $ritain)s first woman prime minister, or /ueen
"li0abeth II who has been the emblem of $ritish monarchy for years.
1. The French Revolution as a Background for the Feminist Movement
The French Revolution is a wide sub&ect as it had been a great political, economic and
social event in the eighteenth century and a few pages would not do it &ustice. Therefore, in
1
what follows I will try to present a brief outline of the main features of the French Revolution
and dwell only upon those that are particularly relevant for my sub&ect.
"very time a revolt rises it is the lower strata of the society that plays the biggest part
in it and the French Revolution was no eception to the rule. The French society was divided
into three so*called "states+ the First "state 2the clergy3, the 4econd "state 2the nobility3 and
the Third "state 2the rest of the society from the banker and lawyer to peasant3
1
. The
economical problems and social inequalities of the time were most felt by this Third "state.
Further on I would like to present my personal views on how it all happened based on my
research for the sub&ect. I would compare the French Revolution to a natural phenomenon+ the
ripples on a lake caused by a rock that has been thrown in it. The socio*economic tensions
represented the lake in which %bbe "mmanuel*-oseph 4ieyes, the deputy for the Third "state,
had thrown his rock+ the pamphlet What is the Third Estate. The ripples soon grew wider and
wider as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen quickly followed and they widened
for years in a row, from 1567 until 1577. 8articipants to the revolution felt that a new order
must be established+ monarchy must give way to democracy, no more social hierarchy and
separation of the classes but equal rights for all the citi0ens in other words+ liberty, equality
and inalienable rights. The first request could not be fulfilled because of a physical obstacle+
9ing :ouis ;<I and /ueen #arie %ntoinette were still on the throne, but to overcome this
obstacle was only a matter of time and strategy. %s soon as some strong*willed liberals had
the determination to do it 9ing :ouis ;<I was eecuted in 157=
=
. ,ithin three years from the
beginning of the revolution monarchy collapsed and with the proclamation of the Republic in
the year of 9ing :ouis) eecution, it seemed that the fulfillment of the other two ma&or claims
of the French Revolution was at hand. In the end, the aims of the French Revolution had been
achieved but whether the changes were for good or for worse only time could decide.
The ma&or features of the French Revolution being thus presented we have covered the
events which primarily concern men. In the following lines the focus will be on how women
managed to make themselves useful in some of the most crucial events of the revolution.
Their first 'performance( was The fall of the Bastille. ,hen the insurgents marched towards
the most famous prison in France on the 1>
th
of -uly 1567, women thought that they too could
'play( this part and &oined the crowd+ 'women, in their eagerness, helped us to the utmost(
?
.
1
8rimary sources for the French Revolution, http+@@www.thecaveonline.com@%8"A@frrevdocuments.html,
Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
2
http+@@en.wikipedia.org@wiki@FrenchCRevolution, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
3
% 8arisian newspaper account of the Fall of the $astille in 8rimary sources for the French Revolution,
http+@@www.thecaveonline.com@%8"A@frrevdocuments html, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
=
It seems that women felt good about their deed because a few months later they 'performed(
again, this time on their own no men involved. Dn the E
th
of Dctober, seven thousand
women marched towards <ersailles to complain about the harsh economic situations they
faced and to demand for the 9ing and his administration to move to 8aris as a sign of
solidarity with the poor
>
. ,hether it was for them or not the 9ing did move to 8aris. #ission
accomplishedF $ut they wanted more+ they proved that they could act like men, fight like
men, now they wanted rights equal to those of men.
2. From Olympe de ouges to Mary !ollstonecraft
In France, as well as in .reat $ritain, women had no political rights and they had to
confine themselves to the status of 'passive citi0ens(
E
. Aowever, it felt strange that only men
should benefit from the new political climate. %lthough it had always been that way, when the
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was made known, women)s minds could not be
quieted any more by the Gold lullaby) about the superiority of men that had been sung to them
for centuries. It seemed like women said to themselves+ GIf they can, we can). First they
reacted as a mob until some woman figures stood out+ 8auline :Hon and Ilaire :acombe, who
chose a militant and often violent path of epressing their needs, but there were also those like
Dlympe de .ouges who chose writing in order to epress their opinion. Dlympe de .ouges
was a self*educated playwright who tried to prove, in her work, that the obvious difference
between men and women could not account for the inequality between them. Aer efforts
culminated in 1571 with the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen, which is the
women)s reply to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. For a better understanding
I would like to insert some of the articles contained in the Declaration that I consider most
relevant for my sub&ect+ '%rticle I ,oman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights.
4ocial distinctions can be based only on the common utility.
%rticle <I The law must be the epression of the general will! all female and male
citi0ens must contribute either personally or through their representatives to its formation! it
must be the same for all+ male and female citi0ens, being equal in the eyes of the law, must be
equally admitted to all honors, positions, and public employment according to their capacity
and without other distinctions besides those of their virtues and talents.
%rticle <II Jo woman is an eception! she is accused, arrested, and detained in
cases determined by law. ,omen, like men, obey this rigorous law.
4
http+@@en.wikipedia.org@wiki@FrenchCRevolution, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
5
Ibidem
?
%rticle ; Jo one is to be disquieted for his very basic opinions! woman has the right
to mount the scaffold! she must equally have the right to mount the rostrum, provided that her
demonstrations do not disturb the legally established public order.
%rticle ;III For the support of the public force and the epenses of administration,
the contributions of woman and man are equal! she shares all the duties and all the painful
tasks! therefore, she must have the same share in the distribution of positions, employment,
offices, honors and &obs.(
K
In my opinion, these selected articles sum up what feminism was all about+ equality
between men and women, for better and for worse. ,omen did not want to prove that they
were better than men not better but equal. ,ho would have thought that equality could be
something badL Aowever, all those who had the courage to ask for it were severely punished.
:eaving behind the events in France, but still keeping them in mind, I would like to move on
and see the $ritish women)s reaction towards this feminist awakening.
It is said that bad news travel fast! in this case, so did the good ones good for
women, at least. The Declaration of the Rights of Woman had crossed the Ihannel in no time
and the ideas nurtured so much by the French women soon Gcontaminated) the minds of their
neighbours. Feminism as manifested in .reat $ritain was the prolonged reverberation of the
above mentioned 'manifesto( and even more, because $ritish feminists found even more
faults to complain about. %dvocates of the feminist movement made a point in arguing that
woman was not the intellectual inferior of man, that the $ible did not decree her unequal, that
her sphere should not be limited to domestic duties and that her position as wife should not
make her the subordinate of her husband. These were the ma&or issues brought to public
attention by #ary ,ollstonecraft)s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. ,ith this
publication the feminist movement quickly gained strength and found new adherents as its
contents was obviously relevant to the larger ideological questions that were being discussed
as a result of the French Revolution. %mong other educated women who were obviously
taking sides with the feminist movement, #ary ,ollstonecraft was the most controversial
figure because of her not so good reputation. %lthough in her writings she defended
matrimony in her own life she appeared as the emancipated woman, living with .ilbert Imlay
out of wedlock and bearing his child, and then living with ,illiam .odwin with whom she
married only after becoming pregnant. Their relationship was strange, however, as it was not a
conventional marriage+ they maintained separate rooms and went out alone in mied society,
6
Meclaration of the Rights of ,oman and Iiti0en in 8rimary sources for the French Revolution,
http+@@www.thecaveonline.com@%8"A@frrevdocuments.html, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
>
which was a clear and conscious re&ection of the accepted code. In fact, ,ollstonecraft did
mention in her writings that some women, those 'women of a superior cast(
5
, should be
allowed to follow a different path in pursuing their more etensive plans of usefulness and
independence. ,ollstonecraft)s marriage with .odwin struck most contemporaries as a
mockery of the marital ideal.
6

#ary ,ollstonecraft identified herself with the cause of the French Revolution. #any
contemporaries considered that her radical feminism was of a piece with her political
radicalism. $efore moving on to presenting some of ,ollstonecraft)s ideas contained in A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman I want &ust to mention that her work produced the same
reaction as the Declaration to the Rights of Woman did, only that she was not physically
eecuted like Dlympe de .ouges but she had her Gshare) of criticism+ Aorace ,alpole and
Aannah #ore were only two of those who epressed their disapproval publicly. I shall not go
any further with this matter as my purpose is to present the feminist movement and not the
anti*feminist reaction, which obviously followed. In the following few lines I shall try to
underline some of the main ideas of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman which will be as
ob&ective a presentation as possible because I do not claim to support neither ,ollstonecraft)s
views nor the anti*feminists).
First of all, #ary ,ollstonecraft believed that through education women can become
the equals of men and throughout the thirteen chapters of her work she emphasi0ed that
women should develop their rational faculties. The authoress argued that all the Gfollies and
caprices) men accused women of were the result of the ignorance the latter were submitted to.
The eighteenth century society considered that women did not need education! from their
infancy, girls were told that all they had to learn was how to please men 'and should they be
beautiful, everything else is needless, for at least twenty years of their lives.(
7
,ollstonecraft
was clearly against this opinion and in her view this kind of woman was reduced to the status
of a Gdomestic brute) always blindly obeying their husbands who were pleased to keep them in
a permanent state of childhood so that they can eercise their authority more efficiently. Thus,
women could not be accused of being vain or of being employed with trifles because they
could not achieve virtue if they were not permitted to Geercise reason), that is enlarge their
5
#ary ,ollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, http+@@www.gradesaver.com@a*vindication*of*the*
rights*of*woman@e*tet@, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
8
,arren Roberts, Jane Austen and the French Reolution, :ondon and %tlantic Aighlands, The %TA:DJ"
8R"44, 177E, p. 16?.
9
#ary ,ollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, http+@@www.gradesaver.com@a*vindication*of*the*
rights*of*woman@e*tet@, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
E
minds with more useful things. #ary ,ollstonecraft accused male writers of Gspoiling)
women)s minds, making them more artificial, weaker in character and more useless members
of society. $ecause of their weakness women were by nature inferior to men but still they
should be considered equal, at least within the married couple.
The authoress of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman inferred that women can
become the friends and not the humble Gslaves) of their husbands should they be educated in
the same way men were. Furthermore she argued that women had sunk below the standard of
rational creatures in men)s eyes and this evil could be removed only through education.
,ollstonecraft did not limit herself only to complaining about this Gin&ustice) but also came up
with a solution+ '$ut I still insist, that not only the virtue, but the knowledge of the two sees
should be the same in nature, if not in degree, and that women, considered not only as moral,
but rational creatures, ought to endeavour to acquire human virtues 2or perfections3 by the
same means as men, instead of being educated like a fanciful kind of half being(
1B
. The
eighteenth century society placed much emphasis on the role of men and too little on the role
of women! men were allowed to seek a great variety of professions and place marriage on a
secondary level while women were taught that the aim of their lives must be to marry
advantageously. ,ollstonecraft condemned in her work the novels, the music and the poetry
that made women Gcreatures of sensation) that live only for the present regardless of a possible
wretched future. The authoress stated that women should not be so ready to accept that they
were created only to please men because they too, like men, were sent into the world to
acquire virtue and not to be dependent on men. %ccording to ,ollstonecraft, women should
be allowed the status of moral and rational creatures. ,ollstonecraft went on saying that a
suitable mother must be a reasonable creature and not a Gwoman of sensibility) who would
spoil her children)s temper. Furthermore, a mother must also be a suitable wife, not
disobedient to her husband but neither blindly obedient! the perfect relationship between a
husband and wife, in ,ollstonecraft)s opinion, is one of friendship. The authoress suggested
that love should be replaced by friendship for a successful relationship. $ut as friendship
means equality, husbands would never agree to call their wives Gfriends). %t the end of chapter
four, #ary ,ollstonecraft made her point clear+ 'I wish to see women neither heroines nor
brutes! but reasonable creatures who, from having received a masculine education, have
acquired courage and resolution(
11
.
10
!"idem
11
!"idem
K
In the fifth chapter of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman #ary ,ollstonecraft dealt
with some of the writers Gwho have rendered women ob&ects of pity). 4he was most critical on
-.-. Rousseau who considered women inferior to men because of their physical weakness
which, in ,ollstonecraft)s opinion, was an un&ust argument given the fact that it was
considered improper for girls to practice eercises that would strengthen their bodies! instead
they were forced to play with dolls and quietly listen to Gfoolish) conversations. Thus, not only
their bodies but their characters also were weakened, for, at a very young age, they began to
coquet and talk about establishing themselves in the world by marriage. #ale writers always
pointed to the women)s lack of &udgment saying that they must obey their fathers and
husbands in everything, even in religious matters. #ary ,ollstonecraft, without trying to
discard their claim, drew an astonishing conclusion 2etremely derogatory for men3+ 'The
man who can be contented to live with a pretty useful companion without a mind, has lost in
voluptuous gratifications a taste for more refined en&oyments! he has never felt the calm
satisfaction that refreshes the parched heart, like the silent dew of heaven * of being beloved
by one who could understand him(
1=
. #ary ,ollstonecraft, like -ane %usten after her, mocks
Mr. Fordyce)s #ermons to $oung Women and other male writers who described the way men
wanted women to be+ fragile innocent creatures in desperate need of help and guidance.
,ollstonecraft)s opinion was totally opposite+ women do not need that much Gprotection) but
on the contrary they must get involved in Glife) and feel what men feel in order to know what
they know and &udge accordingly. .irls, for the sake of their fragility, were not allowed to
educate their minds and form better tastes and if they did go to school they were sent to a
boarding school where, as #ary ,ollstonecraft stated, they were spoiled and left to indulge in
any kind of vain activities their uncultivated minds would pursuit. This was the so*called
education that women received these schools were supposed to make them ladies and this
was, in fact, all that a simple*minded girl wanted. They were not interested in morality
because they did not know what morality was all about. The solution that #ary ,ollstonecraft
proposed for this Gdisease) was social equality between men and women and a little
independence from men.
In the last chapters of A Vindication #ary ,ollstonecraft)s radical feminism is
revealed. %lthough up to this point she argued that woman)s position as a wife and mother had
been abused, in the last chapters she complained that women were not allowed to go any
further and have Grepresentatives) in the political and social life 'instead of being arbitrarily
12
!"idem
5
governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government(
1?
.
Aere she perfectly coincides with Dlympe de .ouges. #oreover, women should seek other
public offices like those of physicians, nurses, governesses up to the study of politics but
,ollstonecraft was aware of the fact that they would struggle with many difficulties in
obtaining and keeping the above mentioned positions. 4he was confident that women could be
Gbetter citi0ens) if men gave up their pride. The authoress concludes her Gplea) with one
defining argument+ '%sserting the rights which women in common with men ought to contend
for, I have not attempted to etenuate their faults! but to prove them to be the natural
consequence of their education and station in society. If so, it is reasonable to suppose, that
they will change their character, and correct their vices and follies, when they are allowed to
be free in a physical, moral, and civil sense.(
1>
". #ane $usten % not technically feminism& 'ut close
-ane %usten was considered a romance writer because she was always writing about
young women who only had interest in marriage, but in these apparent traditional stories we
can find subtle feminist tendencies. Aowever, %usten was not as fervent a feminist as #ary
,ollstonecraft was and she was against the radical ideas that were so much in the air at that
time. The difference in their attitude resulted especially from their difference of social
position #ary ,ollstonecraft was a silk waver)s daughter while -ane %usten was a country
parson)s daughter as they both critici0ed the woman of the Ggenteel society)+ #ary
,ollstonecraft as an outsider and -ane %usten as an insider. Aaving this in mind it was natural
for %usten not to consider wrong all that ,ollstonecraft considered wrong.
-ane %usten was a member of this world of Gcodes and manners) and she observed the
rituals and ceremonies of her class and, as a woman, she internali0ed many of its values. %s a
clergyman)s daughter -ane %usten grew up in an atmosphere of respectability. 4he never
epressed clear disapproval of #ary ,ollstonecraft)s radical feminist ideas as there is no
evidence of her reading A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, but she did make a negative
reference to ,illiam .odwin in one of her letters to her sister, Iassandra
1E
. -ane %usten)s
Gfeminism), if feminism could be called, went no further than critici0ing the triviality of
female nature! she did not ask for social equality between men and women but she agreed that
women should be granted a little Gindependence of mind). This is the point where, I believe,
13
!"idem
14
!"idem
15
,arren Roberts, o%&cit&, p. 1EK.
6
-ane %usten and #ary ,ollstonecraft differed. To push this difference even further, -ane
%usten was not totally against the boarding school system, as both she and her sister went to
boarding schools. #ary ,ollstonecraft condemned those women who en&oyed reading
modern novels while the %usten sisters were great novel readers. %s a matter of fact, all
%usten)s heroines were fond of Gnovel reading). ,hile ,ollstonecraft saw novels an evil that
spoiled the female mind -ane %usten saw them as a means of improving one)s &udgment. The
ma&or difference between %usten and ,ollstonecraft lays in their purpose for writing+ #ary
,ollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a polemic, to change minds,
while -ane %usten wrote fictional narratives mainly for entertainment and only secondly
instruct the reader)s mind but with no purpose to change it.
Female life, both before and in marriage, is a primary concern in %usten)s novels.
Aowever, -ane %usten)s position regarding women is not a feminist one+ 'Trivial, clothes*
conscious females were clearly viewed critically(
1K
. 4he blamed their upbringing and
education for the faults in their character but it is obvious that society also played a big part
the eighteenth century society required women to be pretty*looking Gob&ects) if they wanted to
be saleable on the Gmarriage market). The great ma&ority of women 'poured so much of their
time and energy into courting favour with men(
15
and this is what forms -ane %usten)s
sharpest satire. 4he was simply making fun of those women who saw in clothing a means of
attracting men because, as we are told in authorial asides, men were not even paying attention
to what women wore. %usten blamed the pressure of the marriage market for these Gfemale
follies) and not so much the women themselves! she was certainly more mild than
,ollstonecraft. %usten)s heroines made no effort to leave their female sphere but spent their
time visiting neighbours, attending dances, going to $ath which was considered very
fashionable and generally observing the rituals that were appropriate to their class. #ary
,ollstonecraft critici0ed the female accomplishments dismissing them as trifles. -ane %usten
did not say that they were wrong as all the heroines in her novels played the piano, sang,
drew, did needlework and danced, but she stressed that the female attitude towards these
accomplishments was wrong+ '.irls were not taught these skills to develop their intellect! as
female education was not regarded as intrinsically valuable it produced girls whose minds
were ill*formed and whose values were shallow.(
16

16
!"idem, p. 155.
17
!"idem
18
!"idem, p. 1K?.
7
-ane %usten was a feminist in the sense that she believed in the independence of the
woman mind, as reflected in characters like "li0abeth $ennet, or in the power of a woman)s
&udgment like in "linor Mashwood)s case. 4he also presented the advantages of financial
independence on a woman)s character when she created "mma. Aowever, there is a limit for
this independence and what %usten critici0ed in her writings was the trespassing of this limit.
It may seem that in some cases the authoress adopted a slight anti*feminist position, but all
that she did was presenting the negative effects that misused independence may have upon
some women. -ane %usten)s feminism is not so much a Grevolutionary) one like
,ollstonecraft)s, but rather one of Gcircumstance). 4he &ust happened to be a woman writer
who wrote about women in a time when women were not supposed to do it. Throughout her
novels %usten avoided politics and as a consequence she was concerned in more domestic
problems! she did not consider education for women as a preparation for a political or social
career the best reward she had in store for her heroines was marriage. In this contet of
marriage -ane %usten was also concerned in the morality of her female characters,
considering morality as the capacity to discern right from wrong. :ike ,ollstonecraft, %usten
believed that morality was a matter of education and not so much of spontaneity.
-ane %usten)s feminist attitude changed according to the periods of her life. Aer first
three novels+ 'orthanger A""e(, #ense and #ensi"ilit( and )ride and )re*udice belong to an
early period when %usten was young, healthy and full of life. Aer Gfeminism) is displayed
through her heroines who are all young and very young ladies, like the authoress herself, with
a positive attitude towards life. To make myself clearer I will say a few words about each
heroine. The seventeen*year old Iatherine #orland, the youngest of -ane %usten)s heroines,
is at about the age girls were supposed to Gcome out), that is to go to balls and be seen in
public places. #ary ,ollstonecraft would have called Iatherine Gignorant) and her acts
Gfollies) as a result of novel*reading and lack of education. #oreover, she would have said that
Iatherine was going to be her husband)s Gslave). $ut -ane %usten puts Iatherine in no such
unfavourable light! she infers that Iatherine)s ignorance was natural for her age and that
through her husband)s knowledge of the world she too will improve her mind. %s a matter of
fact, Iatherine)s improvement can be seen at the end of the novel, even before she entered the
state of marriage. Through her, %usten wanted to prove that there is nothing a young and well*
disposed mind could not learn. In her net novel, #ense and #ensi"ilit(, -ane %usten presents
the contrast between a woman who submits herself to the guidance of common sense "linor
and one who follows impulse #arianne. These two sisters, like all %usten)s heroines
1B
2ecept "mma3, do not have the advantage of being wealthy which makes them totaly
dependent on marriage. Aowever, -ane %usten does not see in this dependence something bad,
like ,ollstonecraft did, and neither do her heroines. %lthough they are physically dependent
their mind is independent, which, in -ane %usten)s opinion, is all that matters+ the body could
be a slave, but if the mind is free there is no harm done.
%fter she had tried her hand in her first novels, -ane %usten produced a third one,
)ride and )re*udice, which is considered her masterpiece. From the very first lines of this
novel we can see that the authoress) intention was to mock the conception about marriage
spread among her contemporaries. 4he created a heroine, "li0abeth $ennet, who defies all
conventions and especially the Gmarriage market). %lthough a relatively poor girl, the second
of five sisters, she did not give up to the pressure her family was making on her to marry.
"li0abeth knew it was her duty to get married but she did not want to marry because of that,
but because she wanted! and it was impossible to want to marry with a man she did not love,
like the ma&ority of girls in her time did. Furthermore, she could not accept to be treated as an
inferior she wanted her husband to respect her &udgment. ,hat -ane %usten proposed in this
novel was the perfect type of marriage+ 'It was an union that must have been to the advantage
of both! by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved!
and from his &udgment, information and knowledge of the world, she must have received
benefit of greater importance.(
17
%nita 9aushal epressed the thought even more eplicit+
'#arriage for -ane %usten does not mean woman)s subordination. Rather it represents an
emotional and intellectual union of two adults leading to real marital bliss. ,omen)s identity
instead of being subsumed is recogni0ed and respected(
=B
and I believe this settles the
difference between -ane %usten and #ary ,ollstonecraft.
In the last three finished novels+ Mansfield )ar+, Emma and )ersuasion, there is a
slight change in -ane %usten)s attitude+ she comments adversely on female gentility and
represents female life negatively, critici0es the female accomplishments and eposes the evils
of the marriage market. ,hile the general pattern of female life in these three last novels is
approimately the same as in the first three, the authoress) point of view on the woman
question underwent a definite change.
=1
The protagonists of the first three novels are, from the
very beginning, superior in mind and character to almost everyone while the heroines in the
above mentioned novels achieve that status somewhere at the end, after they have Gatoned) for
19
-ane %usten, )ride and )re*udice, :ondon, 8enguin, 177>, p. =?7.
20
%nita 9aushal, -ane %usten+ /uest for moral autonomy, )an*a" ,niersit( Research Journal -Arts., vol.
;;;III, Jo.=, 1BE*116. Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=, from http+@@pur&a.puchd.ac.in@volumeoctoberBK@1B.pdf, p. 1BK.
21
,arren Roberts, o%&cit&, pp.16=*16?.
11
their mistakes or after circumstances brought them into a more favourable light. Fanny 8rice,
the heroine in Mansfield )ar+, is totally different from what -ane %usten had ever created+ she
was only 'the poor relative( of the $ertram family, with no identity or will of her own, the
obscure little creature always in the shadow of some of her cousins or aunts. %lthough Fanny
would never get to be like "li0abeth $ennet or like "linor Mashwood, she was finally
accepted at #ansfield 8ark but only when -ulia and #aria had failed their family. Jet, the
Gcharming #iss ,oodhouse), the protagonist of Emma was an accomplished young lady, no
doubt, but her fault was 'the power of having too much her own way, and a disposition to
think a little too well of herself(
==
. It seems like -ane %usten wanted to prove that too much
independence for a woman can be damaging. :ast but not the least, %nne "liot in -ane
%usten)s last finished novel is the mature woman who, at the age of twenty seven is on the
verge of spinsterhood, a very deplorable state for someone to be in especially in that time.
"ight years before the action of the novel takes place %nne allowed herself to be Gpersuaded)
by family and friends to give up a relationship with a man she loved. 4he was a Gnobody) until
she was determined enough to rely on her own &udgment. I believe %usten wanted to prove
that independence of mind goes better with a mature mind women should be allowed
independence but the most important thing is to know how to use it.
%ll in all, if -ane %usten was a feminist herself is hard to decide! different critics along
the ages had placed her in and out the Gfeminist cause), but one thing is clear that with her
novels, with and about women, -ane %usten helped pave the way for modern day feminists.
(. reat Britain % the country )here feminists should feel at home
The $ritish may have reacted against feminism, but you simply cannot tell $ritish
women that leadership is not for them when you had or have a woman on the throne. /ueen
"li0abeth I, although almost two hundred years before any feminist movement began, was
considered an emblem of power and effective leadership. %nd what is more, she reigned
without the help of a king because she never married. %s we move onward to the time when
the feminist movement started, history provides one more eample. /ueen <ictoria, whose
reign followed the period of feminist awakening, is another proof that politics is not
something a woman cannot understand. ,hile she was queen, the N9 became one of the
richest and most powerful countries in the world. Aowever, it is ironical that although there
was a woman on the throne women were not allowed to vote, take degrees at universities or, if
married, own property in their own right. "ducation was still considered irrelevant for girls
22
-ane %usten, Emma, Aarmondsworth, 8enguin, 177>, p.E.
1=
until the "ducational %ct in 165B that provided elementary education for girls as well as boys
but it would take almost one hundred years for women to be given the right to vote on equal
terms with men. Dnce they picked the fruits of their labour and saw that they were good, they
wanted more and start campaigning for equality in &ob opportunities. There have been to acts
elaborated in this respect+ The 4e Miscrimination %ct that came into force in Mecember 175E
and another 4e Miscrimination %ct in 176K which made it unlawful for employers to
discriminate between men and women when filling &obs and the "qual 8ay %ct which laid
down that men and women doing the same &ob were entitled to similar rates of pay. %lthough
$ritain has had a female monarch, /ueen "li0abeth II, since 17E=, and had a woman 8rime
#inister between 1757 and 177B, women in the work force still have a long battle ahead to
achieve equality.
=?
*onclusions

%s the 'ripples( of the French Revolution widened until they had gone beyond the
boundaries of France, so did the 'ripples( of the feminist movement. It was &ust a matter of
courage or determination for somebody to throw the rock. -udging by the way things have
happened it seems that the rock had not been thrown in a lake but in a sea the French
Revolution stopped but feminism, as a concept and way of life, still goes on.
Feminism had been discussed both in literary and political terms with the aim of
providing social equality between men and women. %lthough there had been laws elaborated
for this cause it seems that there was and there is a law of nature that women could not fight
against, and, try as they might, men are even until this day considered superior to women.
Aowever, much has changed since the feminist movement first began+ they wanted women
representatives they have them! they wanted education they have it! they wanted equal &ob
opportunities they have them! they wanted independence they are free to go wherever they
want, associate with whomever they want, take their lives in their own hands, use it as they
wish, pursue any career they fancy. They don)t want to marryL Jo problem, they can still be
respectable women outside the institution of marriage. $ut still, women are weaker and they
cannot change that, not in a million years it)s their constitution. They have obtained "/N%:
RI.AT4 but they will never achieve "/N%:ITO.

23
-ohn :. Irwin, Ihapter 6 /ife in Britain toda( in Modern Britain. %n introduction P"lectronic versionQ, Jew
Oork, Routledge, =BBE, pp. 1=1*1==.
1?

Reference list
1. Books
1. %usten, -ane 2177>3. )ride and %re*udice. :ondon+ 8enguin.
=. %usten, -ane 2177>3. Emma. Aarmondsworth+ 8enguin.
?. Irwin, -ohn :. 2=BBE3. Modern Britain. %n introduction P"lectronic versionQ, Jew Oork+
Routledge.
>. Roberts, ,arren 2177E3. Jane Austen and the French Reolution. :ondon and %tlantic
Aighlands+ The %TA:DJ" 8R"44.
2. Online documents
1. 9aushal, %nita 2=BBK3. -ane %usten+ /uest for moral autonomy, )an*a" ,niersit(
Research Journal -Arts., vol. ;;;III, Jo.=, 1BE*116. Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=, from
http+@@pur&a.puchd.ac.in@volumeoctoberBK@1B.pdf.
=.,ollstonecraft, #ary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, http+@@www.gradesaver.com@a*
vindication*of*the*rights*of*woman@e*tet@, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
". +ites
1. 8rimary sources for the French Revolution, http+@@www.thecaveonline.com@%8"A@ frrev
documents.html, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
=. http+@@en.wikipedia.org@wiki@FrenchCRevolution, Retrieved -uly 7, =B1=.
1>