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Jane Austens Limited Range:

Jane Austen as a novelist has stringently set her limits which she seldom oversteps. She was
amazingly aware of which side her genius lay and she exploited it accordingly without any false
notions of her capabilities or limitations. As Lord David Cecil points out, she very wisely
stayed "within the range of her imaginative inspiration." Her imaginative inspiration was as
severely limited as, for example, Hardy's or Arnold Bennett's. Her themes, her characters, her
background setting -everything has a well-etched range within which she works, and works
exquisitely.Jane Austen herself referred to her work as Two inches of ivory. In a letter to her
niece, Fanny Knight, Jane Austen wrote, Three or four families in a country village is the
very thing to work on.
Although she works on a very small canvas, yet she has widened the scope of fiction in almost
all its directions. Her stories are mostly indoor actions where only family matters are discussed.
However, her plots are perfect and characterization is superb.
Critics have labeled her novels belonging to a narrow range of themes and characterization. Even
in her limited world, Austen restricts herself to the depiction of a particular class of country
gentry. She excludes the matters of lower class and hardly touches aristocracy. For instance, she
has discussed Lady Catherine only for the purpose of satire. The same sort of story is repeated,
subject matters are very much the same in all her novels, confined to the landed
gentry Servants, laborers and yeomanry rarely appear in her novels. Her nephew James AustenLeigh, alludes to her limited range:
She was always careful not to meddle with matters with which she did not thoroughly
There is no terrible happening in Jane Austins novels. Everything happens in a civilized manner.
The extreme severity in Pride and Prejudice is elopement of Lydia with Wickham.
Charlotte Bronte was constrained to observe about Jane Austen:
"She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The
passions are perfectly unknown to her : she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that
stormy sisterhood."
Charlotte Bronte believes that Jane Austen is not concerned with the deep morals and she is an
author of the surface only: Her business is not half so much with the human heart as with
the human eye, mouth, hands and feet.

Andrew H. Wright points out that there is very little religion discussed in her novels, politics is
not mentioned too. There are no adventures found in her books, no abstract ideas and no
discussion of spiritual or metaphysical issues.
Macaulay declares that her characters are commonplace, yet they are all as perfectly
discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.
Sir Walter Scott appreciates the precision of her Art and its merit:That young lady has a talent
for describing the involvement of feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the
most wonderful I have ever met with.
G.H. Lewes pays glowing tribute to her:First and foremost, let Jane Austen be named, the
greatest artist that has ever written... Her circle may be restricted, but it is complete. Her
world is a perfect orb, and vital sphere.
Pride and Prejudice like her other novels has a narrow physical setting in which she lived. The
story revolves around Netherfield, Longbourn, Hunsford, Meryton and Pemberley. It seems to be
an irony of the history that when the Romantic Poets were discovering the beauties of nature,
Jane Austen confined her characters within the four walls of the drawing room. Her heroines also
famously never leave the family. Edward Fitzgerald states: She never goes out of the
Jane Austens limitations stemmed from the choice of her themes: love, marriage and courtship.
All of her six novels deal with same theme of love and marriage. There are pretty girls waiting
for eligible bachelors to be married to.
Another limitation is the feminization of her novels. Men do not appear except in the company of
women. All the information about Darcy is proved through Elizabeths point of view. Hence, the
reader looks at Darcy through Elizabeths eye
However her novels are profound in the psychological delineation of her characters. She is able
to capture superbly, the subtlety of thoughts and reflexes of her characters. We can sum up above
discussion in the words of Virginia Woolf: Jane Austen is the mistress of a much deeper
emotion than appears on the surface.