Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/5075
"...A Certain Step Towards Falling in Love." Jane Austen’s Use of Dancing in Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Emma
Jane Austen is one of the most widely read and beloved writers in English literature. Her novels are still considered staple reading for young women, and her storylines have been borrowed and adapted into various modern forms, for example the films Clueless (adapted from Emma) and Bridget Jones’ Diary (loosely based on Pride and Prejudice). The reason her stories still apply to the lives of modern women is because of her use of the timeless themes of courtship and marriage and, of course, the implication that a happy ending is in store for every girl regardless of her circumstances. The courtship in the novels consists of very conventional exchanges, through which Austen’s characters communicate their marital intentions. Austen often uses balls and dances to illustrate these exchanges between her characters, thus creates the metaphor that dances are like marriages. She cleverly has one of her characters, Henry Tilney, draw attention to the possibilities of this metaphor in Northanger Abbey:
‘I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbour.’
In this essay I will closely examine three of Jane Austen’s novels (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma) to study the part dancing played in the social interactions of the period and in particular its crucial connection to courtship activity and marriage, as most notably illustrated in various ballroom scenes.