According to Their Plots, Jane Austen’s Novels Are Not Comic Romances with Happy Endings

  •  Cynthia Whissell    


In order to answer two specific questions (“Do the plots of Jane Austen’s novels match the plot of Cinderella?” and “Do Austen’s novels include a comic or happy ending, defined as one where the author employs more pleasant language at the end of the novel than she did at the beginning?”), Jane Austen’s six major novels and Cinderella were scored for the pleasantness of their language with the Dictionary of Affect (Whissell, 2009). The answer to both questions, based on results of regression analyses and means comparisons, is negative. Austen’s novels are not variants of the Cinderella story, nor do they have the type of endings that characterize comic romances. Cinderella is very pleasant and has a distinct happy ending. In contrast, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey are less pleasant and have equivocal endings, while Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility have tragic (relatively unpleasant) endings. Persuasion employs the least pleasant language overall but has a happy ending.

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  • Issn(Print): 1925-4768
  • Issn(Onlne): 1925-4776
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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