"A little learning is by no means a dangerous thing:" The Moral Education of Jane Austen's Heroines



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Jane Austen’s novels show over time a comprehensive view of her thoughts on education, both formal and emotional. Character growth in Austen’s heroines throughout her writings is indicative of her growing awareness of the situation of women in 18th century England well ahead of her time. This paper examines the mechanisms Austen employs in order to infuse her characters with her own observations on women’s education and their place within society, the home, and the classroom. Each chapter examines one of Austen’s novels and its heroines, from Mansfield Park to Persuasion, and looks at the different types of education (or lack of) each young woman receives: gaining self-awareness and perspective; education in and through love; the regulation and moderation of principles; and the manifestation and acceptance of emotional maturity. Inspired at first by Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, this educational analysis attempts to show Austen’s unique position as a moral novelist and a romance writer, and even a historian with a flair for prediction of future societal norms.



Jane Austen, Moral education, Women in fiction