ABSTRACT

Chapter 4 emphasizes how Jane Austen’s work subverts traditions of the very form she helps to enhance and perpetuate. This chapter focuses on how Austen’s danger/safety language creates ironic divergences from stereotypic character and plot features, conveys original treatment of social and emotional hazards, and underscores ethical principles guiding female and male behavior. Following a discussion of Austen’s parody on peril in Northanger Abbey, this chapter explores courting characters’ more subtle encounters with danger in Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Salient features from these novels are drawn together within four thematic sections. The first focuses on heroines’ unprotected state; the second on heroines’ reactions to peril and self-preservation strategies; the third on heroes and pseudo-suitors, with emphasis on Austen’s satirical treatment of protectiveness as a marker of ideal masculinity; and the last on the nuanced nature of Austen’s happy endings.