Thursday, November 24, 2011

In Honor of Thanksgiving: Gratitude in Jane Austen's Novels (118 times)

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and thankfulness. And upon checking out the website, I discovered that Jane Austen actually used the word "gratitude" 118 times in her novels, “grateful” 68 times, “thank” 119 times, and “thankful” 34 times (such an awesome website idea, I know right?! Jane Austen fans think of everything)

So let’s check out how some of Jane Austen’s characters express their gratitude.

Elizabeth Bennet to Darcy upon realizing that Mr. Darcy had, in essence, rescued the family from gossip and ill will:
“I can no longer help thanking you for your unexampled kindness... Ever since I have known it, I have been most anxious to acknowledge to you how gratefully I feel it. Were it known to the rest of my family, I should not have merely my own gratitude to express….Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications...”
(pp. 365-366, Pride and Prejudice)

Sense and Sensibility is full of gratitude—here Mrs. Dashwood thanks a handsome stranger for helping her daughter recover from a fall in the rain:
“Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings. She thanked him again and again; and with a sweetness of address which always attended her, invited him to be seated. “
(p. 42)

And here the eldest daughter Elinor thanks her neighbor Colonel Brandon for his thoughtfulness:
“…her esteem for the general benevolence, and her gratitude for the particular friendship, which together prompted Colonel Brandon to this act, were strongly felt, and warmly expressed. She thanked him for it with all her heart…”
(p. 283)

Emma has the good fortune to not even need words to express her thankfulness to her friend Mr. Knightley:
“Emma had no opportunity of speaking to Mr. Knightley till after supper; but, when they were all in the ball-room again, her eyes invited him irresistibly to come to her and be thanked.”
(p. 330, Emma)

And best of all, when Anne Elliot realizes her true love returns the affection, she positively glows in her gratitude:
“An interval of meditation, serious and grateful, was the best corrective of every thing dangerous in such high-wrought felicity; and she went to her room, and grew steadfast and fearless in the thankfulness of her enjoyment.”
(p. 245, Persuasion)

So, in the spirit of Jane Austen and Thanksgiving, I am conscious of the opinion to acknowledge gratitude and admiration of you and yours!

(all references based on the the Oxford University Press editions)

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