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Austen’s work reflects a shift in attitudes toward female characters. Unlike Shakespearean plays that utilized women as a literary device, Austen’s novels put women in the forefront. Austen’s female protagonists not only featured multiple dimensions in character, they also showcased the manipulation of women by duplicitous men. Where Shakespeare’s tragic heroes like Othello were led astray by evil men or driven insane by the beguiling sexuality of women, Austen’s women are morally upright people whose good intentions are marred by the ill will of men.NA is unique among Austen’s works, even among its contemporaries here examined. Austen takes a female coming-of-age novel and makes it extraordinary; where she could have opted to make NA an endorsement of English patriarchy, she instead focused on the development of Catherine as a human. Shakespeare’s female characters were often of a single dimension in their characterization. No epiphany led to a significant change in a Shakespearean female character. Austen, on the other hand, presented a versatile Catherine, one who abandoned a wealthy John (not to mention a marriage into fortune) in favor of Henry, the modest clergyman. Women of the age would have swooned for a man of John’s wealth, as a woman’s life was either spent in a convent or raising children on an estate. With Catherine’s humility and genuine character, Austen places importance on marriage as an institution of mutual affection rather than one of financial gain. In doing so, Austen shows her audience a deeper side of female characters, revealing women who grow as people with lives outside the realm demarcated by social boundaries. Through Catherine, Austen communicated hopes and dreams that went against the grain of society, but were nurtured and pursued all the same. More important than the substance of the message was the media; Austen managed to relay these subtleties within an 18th century context specifically from a woman’s point of view.


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