The Marriage Plot and Character Archetypes Across the Centuries: Jane Austen Endures

Open Access
Author:
Schmidt, Grace Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
English
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Heather Megan Bryant, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa Ruth Sternlieb, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Jane Austen
  • Marriage Plot
  • Character Archetypes
  • Nineteenth Century Literature
  • Helen Fielding
  • Ian McEwan
Abstract:
“The Marriage Plot and Character Archetypes Across the Centuries: Jane Austen Endures” explores how pop culture and literary authors allude to Austen within their works, incorporating her character archetypes and addressing similar concerns embedded in her works, such as class boundaries and imposed social norms. The first chapter discusses Helen Fielding’s adaptations, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and examines the relationship they share with their parent texts, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. In particular, I probe how Helen Fielding adapts specific scenes responsible for driving the marriage plot from Austen’s original versions. Fielding highlights the effects such stories have when internalized by readers, offering a critique of social standards. Like Austen, Fielding employs irony and allows her characters to repair their mistakes, lending to her comedic tone. Ian McEwan frames his novel Atonement in terms of Austen, and makes several nods to her by touching on similar issues, such as absentee parents, childhood, and the negative implications of a stringent class system. McEwan also adopts similar character archetypes but employs them in a tragic context, discussing what happens when a character must suffer the consequences of irrevocable mistakes.