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Contrasting Jane Austen's society with our own

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I've been sick and have used much of my couch-time re-reading a few Jane Austen novels. This time through, I've been thinking a lot about the theme of reputation that runs through most of her stories. In Austen's times, your opportunities are tied so closely to your conduct. One slip and you could be cast out of society forever. Mistakes are not easily forgiven. For those without money, it seems that honorable conduct is the only way of moving up in the world. Every association is made with one's reputation in mind - friendship, marriage, etc. Bad conduct on the part of one individual can even disgrace the good name of an entire family.


This seems to me to be in sharp contrast to modern society. Our society is much more forgiving (on the whole). The social consequences for poor behavior have been significantly lessened. Huge social mistakes do not necessarily strip you of your place in society. We are very fond of second chances. It seems that there is less to lose in our society, less of a consequence for behaving badly.


Do you agree with this interpretation of modern society? What do you think of this contrast? Why is modern society so much more tolerant? Which model do you think is better?



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There is a huge contrast. I was just talking about this w/dh. Education today requires three years of Science, what for unless you are going into Science or Health field.


Why cant we go back to basics. Learn etiquette , morals and values and personal finance. Just that change alone would make the world a better place.

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Remember, she is writing just about upper class England, and those teetering on the brink of falling out of the upper class in England. It is not clear from her books whether the standards would really apply in the same way to royals or lower classes.


But, the morality was common to everyone and assumed. That seems like a big change to me.


You can see hints of common values and morals in American literature through the early 1960's, and then not anymore. Now, in some ways those common assumptions were not so great, but the fact that we have not replaced them with anything universal and pervasive has led us to a great deal of being 'at sea' as a society.

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