A Rose by Any Other: Reflowering First Names in Jane Austen’s Literature

Amanda Marie Biederman

Abstract


By repeating names across her novels, Jane Austen draws connections between seemingly unrelated characters that can then be studied further through their etymology, as well as their Biblical and historical connotations. Austen fundamentally warps her readers’ impressions of similarly named characters by modifying their situations in life as well as her use of narrative voice. Austen’s subtle connections across her texts display her power to warp her readers’ impressions of her characters, using her narrative voice to completely shift their perspective, and thus challenging her readers to go beyond fixed character interpretation. Elizabeth Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet seem to possess completely different temperaments, yet their family situations and sense of pride reveal they are very similar. Elizabeths are associated with strength and power, but also with the failure to fulfill the role of an older sister. Mary Bennet, Mary Musgrove and Mary Crawford are forced to surrender their own best interests so that they can each assume a woman’s proper place in society. Austen uses Marys to critique gender expectations, arguing that society’s pressure can negatively influence a woman’s goals for her life. Catherine Morland and Catherine Bennet hold vastly different senses of morality. However, they are both curious and impressionable, and they both tend to hold an overly romanticized view of the world. A Catherine is moldable, and is therefore drastically affected by the level of parental guidance she receives. Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax are very similar characters; both are patient, caring and beautiful, and both are ultimately rewarded for their kindness. In the eyes of the narrator, Austen’s Janes appear flawless. Austen’s name choices have been noted by others; however, the name-parallel analysis I undertake has not previously been studied in such depth.

Keywords


Jane Austen, Names, Perspectives

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