A mixture of romanticism and neoclassicism, the writing style of Jane Austen defines her as a new personality who finds herself in the middle of the transition of both periods. On the one hand, it encourages her to demonstrate passion and imagination, and on the other, it forces her to demonstrate her pragmatism. Some of the features of her writing style in terms of word choice, syntax, figurative language, rhythm, rhetoric, and theme are as follows.
Jane Austen’s Word Choice
Regarding diction or word choice, Jane Austen is highly scrupulous. She uses every word carefully and selectively. She also weighs down the use of different words in different sentences or within the same sentence to show variety in thoughts and construction. That is why there is a smooth flow in her writings that readers normally do not find in other writers. She even shows her skills in using archaic diction at times but it is limited to a few words, no more. The flow in her writing and word choice could be assessed from the introductory paragraph of her novel, Pride and Prejudice. Just note the use of truth, fortune and wife in the same sentence and in the last sentence “Mr. Bennet made no answer” which she could have written “Mr. Bennet did not answer.” The use of this diction marks her writing style.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard
that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she
told me all about it.”
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
Jane Austen’s Sentence Structure and Syntax
The interesting thing about the syntax and sentence structure of Jane Austen is that she uses simple and plain sentences at places where they suit the characters. However, she instantly becomes academic, formal, and sophisticated and displays her education when it comes to presenting educated and sophisticated characters. For example, the sentences spoken and used for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice are different from that of Lydia and her mother, Mrs. Bennet. This passage from her novel, Emma, also shows her dexterity in using a variety of sentences.
“The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning’s work for her. The want of Miss Taylor would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled her past kindness—the kindness, the affection of sixteen years–how she had taught and how she had played with her from five years old–how she had devoted all her powers to attach and amuse her in health–and how nursed her through the various illnesses of childhood.”
Jane Austen’s Figurative Language
Jane Austen’s writing style in literary pieces marks the use of burlesque, irony, and realism. However, she also uses different literary devices, poetic devices, and sound devices sparingly when the situation arises and the context becomes appropriate. Interestingly, her expertise lies in irony and free indirect speech coupled with parody. This passage from Pride and Prejudice shows her skill in using different images and describing a person.
“Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners. His sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion. His brother-in-law, Mr. Hurst, merely looked the gentleman; but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report
which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.”
Jane Austen’s Rhythm and Component Sounds
The major feature of the rhythm of Jane Austen’s language is the use of punctuation. It is because punctuation creates a sort of flux that the readers immediately sense. She has repeatedly used exclamation marks and dashes at several places in her novels. Besides this, she has also used sound devices very carefully specifically when it comes to her diction. This introductory passage from her novel, The Mansfield Park, shows it amply.
“About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income. All Huntingdon exclaimed on the
greatness of the match, and her uncle, the lawyer, himself, allowed her to be at least three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to it. She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage. But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.”
Jane Austen’s Rhetorical Patterns
Regarding rhetorical patterns, Jane Austen uses different techniques. On the one hand, she uses a third-person narrator, and on the other hand, she puts characters into contrast and comparison as her novel, Pride and Prejudice, shows it amply through Wickham, Lydia, and Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Bennet. She also uses logos, pathos, and even Kairos to make her readers reach her point so that they could trust her narratives. Yet, she creates laughter when using rhetorical devices such as repetition and exclamation, as the character of Mr. Bennet shows when he talks to Mrs. Bennet and others.
Jane Austen’s Themes
Jane Austen is a writer of varied interests and varied talents. She has touched on every other theme that she could have thought oF in her society such as education and reading through Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth as well as Mr. Darcy, morality through Mr. Darcy and his sisters, religion, and gender through both of them, and feminism through Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She has also touched on the same themes in Emma and The Mansfield Park. Occasionally, she touches upon colonialism, the political situation of the country, and class differences, but they are merely sub-themes under the major category of marriages and love stories.