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Aaron Farmbry

Dr. Craig Wynne


English 320
April 8, 2016
April 6, 2016
Amy Lafty
311 North 19th Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Dear Mrs. Lafty:
You suggest that the feminist school of literary criticism upholds a negative view on the
doctrines of Catholicism. Further, you raised the question: Can an individual be Catholic and
feminist, without disrupting the views of each? Jane Austen is not a radical feminist; though,
there are subtle hints of feminist in her works. Jane Austens novels, likewise, may seem to be
absent of religion. That is not the case. Rather, by giving the female character a voice and letting
her star in leading roles, Jane Austen argues that women should marry and court with self
respect. Kathryn B. Stockton of the University of Utah says, Austens works are about
marriageship: the cautious investigation of a field of eligible males, the delicate maneuvering to
meet them, the refined outpacing of rivals, the subtle circumventing of parental power and the
careful management In fact, having young women read stories that perpetuate the female
stereotype will only diminish their own self-perceptions. Jane Austen, however, is a writer to
bolster female self-perception.
Matrimony occurs when a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the
whole of life, which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and
education of offspring. As matrimony is one of the Seven Sacraments, there are a number of
reference to it in Jane Austens works. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, the parents
of the five Bennet sisters, demonstrate how parents should raise their children. While the
Bennets relationship is not perfect, they put their differences aside for the betterment of their
children. It is the contention of this couple that what is best for their daughters is for them to
marry and to enter into a healthy environment. This is an excellent representation of how a
Catholic should view marriage. Pope Francis addressed married couples on October 27, 2013
and stated, The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children,
the children for their grandparents.praying for each other. As such, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
show their willingness to put their daughters first.
Some feminists believe that to have equal rights to men means that women can indulge in sexual
freedom with men and/or women. However, Catholics believe that women and men belong
together, foremost, on a spiritual level. Take Pride and Prejudice, in which Jane Bennet, the
eldest of the Bennet Sisters, is an example of how a morally-poised woman should carry herself.
Jane Bennets social construction exemplifies that of the woman during the Regency Period. She
waits for Mr. Bingley to propose before showing interest in him, as to show any interest would
have tarnished her reputation among her family and in her community. By being reserved and
respectful, Jane Bennet proves her fidelity, even before marriage. The relationship between Jane

Bennet and Mr. Bingley slowly progresses, and the two demonstrate their true love for each other
by marrying in the end. As opposed to Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister, who is described as
being untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. Lydia, after running off with Mr.
Wickham, who is Officer in Colonel Forster's regiment, has ruined her reputation, since it
assumed that she then was acting lasciviously. As a result of premarital sex, as would be agreed
upon by a Catholic, Lydia is forced into marrying Mr. Wickham to preserve her reputation within
the community.
Feminists believe that women ought to have equal rights to men, on the grounds of political,
social, and religious discourse. However, while we, as Catholics, believe that men and women
share equal rights, there are numerous responsibilities belonging solely to women--one of which
being to bear life. Radical feminists would suggest that women have the right to abortions at any
given time and from the responsibility to raise children. However, Jane Austen invokes in her
novel Sense and Sensibility the beauty of youth and dispels the notion that children are mere
nuisances. Henry Dashwood, the son of John Dashwood and Fanny Dashwood, becomes the heir
to the Dashwoods estate when Mr. Dashwood claims it before his death. The novel states that
Henry Dashwood does this by by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two
or three years old; an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many
cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise (4). Henry Dashwoods actions as a child makes him
likeable to Mr. Dashwood that he is willing to give all his fortune to his grandchild. Pope Francis
would agree with Jane Austen in a speech to the general audience on February 12, 2015, that
[t]he joy of children makes their parents hearts leap and opens up the future. Children are the
joy of the family and of society. The leap of the parents heart is the same emotion that Mr.
Dashwood has towards his grandson. And that, through his love, Jane Austen hopes the reader
might glean how having children is a gift from God to be deeply cherished.
Catholic and feminist ideals share a common ground. While Jane Austen is a feminist writer,
beneath the surface of many of her works run Catholic beliefs. First, the concept of marriage, as
upholded by the characters Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Second, the idea that a woman must remain
pure and reserve sex until marriage, through the mirrored narratives of characters Jane Bennet
and Lydia. Finally, the premise that children are a gift from God to be cherished, through Henry
Dashwood being the heir of the estate of the late Mr. Dashwood.

Sincerely, Aaron Farmbry

Aaron Farmbry
1005 Hazelwood Drive
Philadelphia, PA. 19150

Works Cited
Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. New York: Knopf, 1992. Print.

Austen, Jane, and Vivien Jones. Pride and Prejudice. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Engstrand, Cecilia. "Can chick-lit be canonical?: a feminist reading och Jane Austen's Pride and
Prejudice and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the city." (2008).

Giffin, Michael and Elisabeth Jay. Jane Austen and Religion: Salvation and Society in Georgian
England. Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.