chapter  4
30 Pages

Jane Austen

The subjectivity of ‘likeness’
WithJoe Bray

This chapter concentrates on the novels of Jane Austen, which, as we will see, explore the complications inherent in the concept of likeness' in relation to both literal and metaphorical portraits. The idea that fictional characters can be represented by portraits is apparent throughout Austen's fiction, from her juvenilia onwards. Thirteen portraits by Cassandra accompany her accounts of monarchs in Volume the Second's The History of England', all but one signed C E Austen pinx'. As in Opie's fiction, the portrait in Austen's novels often suggests the difficulty and subjectivity of interpreting character, rather than its transparency. Austen often extends this difficulty of interpretation further throughout a whole novel, setting off a chain of misunderstanding and confusion. Austen's fiction focuses less on the complications involved in the scene of miniature painting, than on the ways it can be interpreted and the tensions it can generate.