Date of Award

Spring 4-22-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Eustace Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Flaherty

Third Advisor

Dr. Julian Knox


Though the mother figures in Jane Austen’s novels are often written off as ridiculous or unlikeable, this thesis posits that the mothers of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park are written as they are in an intentional effort on Austen’s part to condemn the society that forced them into roles of ridiculousness or stinginess. Their inconsistencies highlight the unattainable standards placed on mothers by society as a whole and their eccentricities are the result of a lack of outlet for feminine energy. Character studies of the women of these novels illustrate that they are not unlikeable by nature. Rather, by choosing to perform one duty that society has assigned them they invariably must neglect another because the multitudes of responsibilities expected of mothers are often mutually exclusive. If she is emotionally available, she neglects her children’s education; if she is stringent in societal necessity, she stifles the heroine’s spirit. One woman cannot be all that a mother is expected to be. Austen recognizes this and illustrates the inevitable results of women who try and redeems their right to be flawed human beings.