Many conduct books published in the late eighteenth century offered rules meant to govern conduct. These conduct books suggested that women who follow the rules for manners and morals would be both good and rewarded. Individual traits, marriage, family and society are the focus to approach the characters in the novel. Based on the analysis of people’s view point about marriage,
religion and primogeniture, this essay uses ethical literary criticism to approach the novel, in order to find the moral sense in it and finally see Austen’s morality
Viewpoints on marriage in novels, It was well described most of the unmarried girls’ pursuits and ideas about marriage in their
own time. Of course, these descriptions had brought a great fame as well as some criticisms. In my opinion, they had a sensible view on marriage. Maybe their views are not advanced nowadays. However, in the past, especially in the eighteenth century in England, they undoubtedly possessed a far liberal attitude towards marriage beyond their contemporaries. At that time, women’s social status was very low. Living in a confined circle, they couldn’t find any job unless they would like to become a governess. As a result, to assure their everyday life, it was very important for them to marry a wealthy man. So, at that time, for most marriageable girls, marriage
was just a way to live a stable life. Money became the most important factor in conditioning a marriage. With a keen sense of humor, these books expressed a critical view on this money-oriented marriage. As to the union of man and woman.
Viewpoint on religion. Religion was of central ideological and material interest for people and has been long so. But there are some groups who reject various aspects of the established church and its theology, these difference and inequalities result in social, cultural, and political tension that reach a particular crisis in Austen’s day.
These girls’ characters are fictitious, drawn from the contemporary life, relatively few in number, and mostly from the middle class. It presents a life full of ordinary conversations, walks, drives, teas, dances, visits, picnics, journeys, and other common activities. Their lives were commonplace. Such a group of gentry of similar class origin and life style enable writers to emphasize the protagonist’s
moral deliberations and ethical commitments through similarities and differences of character and action, it omits the kinds of characters found in the gothic romances, historical fiction, and regional novels, which often promote reforming agendas that are put forward by “Dissenters”. Thus this novel can be seen to imply that true or important social meaning is found not among such people and places but among the rural upper and professional middle
classes she represents, to which her and their friends belong. Moreover, by keeping to a relatively narrow range of character types writers both concentrates her social satire and emphasizes moral discernment and ethical interaction in daily life and in local rural society. Such interaction is seen as the main arena of religious practice, and such a social space is the typical stronghold.
Viewpoint on primogeniture. Primogeniture is a system of inheritance by which an eldest son receives his parents’ property. Primogeniture prevents the subdivision of estates and diminishes internal pressures to sell property (for example, if two children inherit a house and one cannot afford to buy the other’s share). In Western Europe most younger sons of the nobility, having no prospect of inheriting land or property, were obliged to seek careers in the Church, the Armed Forces or in Government. A girl might look forward to marriage in her future. A dowry was a present of money, goods, or sometimes land given by a bride’s father to her
husband. The dowry, however, was for his use, not hers. A dowry was thought to make a young girl more attractive to a potential husband. A large dowry might make it possible for a young lady to attract a rich landholder. Many girls entered the clergy as nuns, while others worked as servants at the manor house. Austen holds a satirical attitude towards primogeniture from the standpoint of a
fortuneless woman of her days. In these novels, those heirs are all despised for whether their behavior or their thought. It is these ugly figures that show the irrationality of primogeniture and social injustice for those who are immoral can live comfortably while those who are virtuous have to wait patiently for others’ charity if they
have the same desire. Writers have no purpose to discuss the matter of fate of determinism because they don’t belong to that literature
period. Their focus are put on the hindrance of primogeniture to individual development. The first sons or inheritors are educated to cater for this system which has constraint their personality in secularity. A man is born endowed with virtue which is an integral part of human nature. But nothing concerning virtue has been found on these inheritors because their social behavior must obey the rules set by primogeniture and their minds have been filled with the notion of property- how to keep it and how to enlarge it. A good landlord is a person who can bring the extension of his property not a person who has enough sympathy. A perfect marriage should be the union between a wealthy gentleman and a lady with a large dowry and therefore it has nothing to do with mutual understanding or share of common interests. Throughout the novels, it is hard to mutual communication between them, which may be a model of country nobles’ life.
People believed that a woman was never separated from her family. “Her very soul is in home, and in the discharge of all those quiet virtues of which home is center” (H. George Tucker, 1983:152).
Their responsibility for the family is a way to reflect the moral sense of that society. However, there are characters in novels who do things that are wrong. To demonstrate that holding to sound precepts is the right strategy for a successful life. The most noteworthy moral wrongs that occur in novels are not, and are not meant to be, lessons from which the heroes and heroines learn. They are the plot elements that form the context in which characters make difficult choices. They are the centerpieces of the novel.