Class Rigidity and Social Mobility

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In late eighteenth and early nineteenth century England there was a sort of moral ‘code’ of behavior and standards that are to be maintained by the middle and upper classes of society. Austen realistically mirrors this ‘code’ through the characters and plots of her novels while showing that social flexibility was narrow and class boundaries were strict. The topics of class stringency and social mobility are important areas in Jane Austen’s literature. We begin to see that Austen is not a revolutionary as she supports and preserves the morals and customs of societies hierarchy. However she often encourages and backs the emergence of new wealth permitting greater social mobility. In Austen’s world the naval and ‘tradesmen’ professions…show more content…
The narrative also pokes fun at Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot for being imprudent with his money. This suggests that Wentworth is more favorable to support Anne than Sir Walter, even though he thinks himself highly superior to Wentworth. After Frank Churchill arrives in town Emma takes him to shop at Ford’s and says “You will be adored in Highbury. You were very popular before you came, because you were Mr. Weston's son—“ (Austen, Emma, 155). Mr. Weston was a former army captain and earned enough money to buy his own land putting him in a higher social situation. This quotation shows that not only is Mr. Weston associated with Highbury, he is held in high regard there. Frank Churchill is also a very wealthy man of the trade and because of his known wealth he is the talk of Highbury society. Through satire of the high-class society (Sir Walter), and through approval and regard for navy and ‘trade’ professions as a means of social mobility, Austen shows that the current social structure is moderately changing for the better.
Although there are benefits of social mobility from new wealth peoples and patrons, tradition in maintaining class structure is imperative and belonging to a class should be accompanied with finances. After Mr. Elton proposes to Emma, the narrator attempts to understand Mr. Elton’s motives.
Perhaps it was not fair to expect him to feel how very much he was her inferior in talent, and all the elegancies
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