Nora Bartlett

Published On


Page Range

pp. 41-62

Print Length

21 pages

3. Mothers and Daughters in Jane Austen

  • Nora Bartlett (author)
Chapter of: Jane Austen: Reflections of a Reader(pp. 41–62)
In this chapter, Bartlett examines the mother-daughter relationship in Jane Austen's six novels, particularly Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Regarding the former, the impact of parental death is discussed, as are Mrs. Dashwood's qualities and beliefs—particularly as they relate to motherhood. Regarding the latter, Bartlett explores the personality of Mrs. Bennet; the goals she has for her daughters; and a connection to all of Austen's heroines. Mansfield Park's three sisters are discussed, as well as Mrs. Price's child (Fanny), her adoption, and her mother's attitude toward sons vs daughters. Addressed is the death of Emma's mother (in Emma) for its appropriateness to the eighteenth century; and the role of Miss Taylor. Regarding Persuasion, there is a discussion of Anne Elliot and her family; the impact of her mother's death on her; and the mother-substitute's persuasiveness. Regarding Northanger Abbey, there is a discussion of Eleanor; her being motherless; and her family—particularly the impact of her father General Tilney. Mother-daughter sets in Sense and Sensibility are examined for their problems and personalities. Bartlett explores this novel’s pattern of a mother having one daughter who resembles herself, and the resulting bias; "sense" and "sensibility", as they apply to the Dashwood sisters; and Mrs. Dashwood's behaviour and its impact. Bartlett comments on Austen's heroines’ beliefs in love and honour vs their need for financial security. Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Bennet are compared and contrasted, with Bartlett commenting on the latter's failings, regarding Elizabeth and Jane. Further explored is the topic of marriage and mothers, relating to Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice; the latter's Lydia being prized because she is like her mother; and the weaknesses of the Bennets as parents. Bartlett questions why there are so few sensible mothers in Austen's novels. Finally, a look at Mrs. Austen and Jane's sister Cassandra—and a possible reason why the latter destroyed most of Jane's letters.


Nora Bartlett