Gorer terms the theme of four of Jane Austen's novels—Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma—'Jane Austen's myth'. All four are about 'young women (Marianne, Elizabeth, Fanny, Emma) who are made love to by, but finally reject, the Charming but Worthless lover (Willoughby, Wickham, Crawford, Frank Churchill) and finally marry a man whom they esteem and admire rather than love passionately (Colonel Brandon, Darcy, Edmund Bertram, Mr. Knightley)'. All this to the tune of a ferocious debunking of passionate or sexual love.
Gorer thinks that the central theme in the four novels, which were written in five consecutive years, may be compared with the manifest content of a dream, while its elaboration into the novels corresponds to the analytic interpretation of a dream. He shows that mother hate, sister attachment and fatherfixation gradually develop in the first four novels until, in Persuasion, which appeared the year after Emma had been written, the mother, although still the cause of the heroine's troubles, is treated very leniently. The heroine then marries her lover while the father is pictured as vain, proud, stupid and selfish, and the sister is hated.
It seems as though, by thus reworking her fantasies, Jane Austen had finally uncovered for herself the hidden motives behind the too warm, too
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loving, family relationships which circumscribed her life. Using symbols, she analyzed her own problem: Persuasion was her final solution. In this book she cried out against her starved life, and the selfishness of the father and sisters on whose account it had been starved. When she wrote this book she was nearly at the end of her life, lonely, middle-aged and nearing the menopause. She could now only voice her regret, her depair. It is this note which makes Persuasion, with its poignant and sustained emotion, so completely different from her earlier and more exuberant novels. In the midst of her satirical observation Jane Austen had hidden a myth which probably holds good for her myriad admirers, but in her last novel she rejected her myth, her fantasy, because she had learned that, like all myths, it was eventually an enemy of life.
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Sterba, R. (1945). The Myth in Jane Austen. Psychoanal. Q., 14:136-137