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AUSTEN-L  February 2017, Week 1

AUSTEN-L February 2017, Week 1

Subject:

Tomboys - "She Grew Clean as She Grew Smart"

From:

Diana Birchall <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

AUSTEN-L Jane Austen List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 3 Feb 2017 02:52:14 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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< One of my objections to NA long felt is that Austen has a tomboy type,  
which I find a
cop-out: tomboy girls say they are not respectable but they  are and
admired. Those of us who like Ginny dolls and Little Women and  dresses are
by an equivalent made a little too much fun of; we are an easy  target, an
injured body, my friends.
 
I don't see why you would object to Austen creating a girl who has been a  
tomboy, as a heroine. Why wouldn't, or shouldn't, she?  She varies the  
personality types of her heroines interestingly, and the tomboy element is  
varied, too. It is seen as a stage in growing up, but not all girls partake in  
it. It would seem likely that Elizabeth had a tomboy period (her running,  
walking, active free movement), while Jane being more sedate and feminine,  
probably did not. (Nor Mary, though Lydia and Kitty undoubtedly ran wild as  
little girls!) I should imagine that neither Elinor or Marianne had a 
striking  tomboy phase; Elinor has probably always been too well behaved, and 
Marianne is  more of a romantic. She is wilder and more rebellious than Elinor, 
and may  have been a bit of a tomboy as a child, but Elinor would have 
reproved and  restrained her, By the time we meet her, there's no hint of it. 
Fanny Price is  no tomboy, she's very concerned to behave conventionally, yet 
before she came to  Mansfield Park we know she had some romps with her 
brothers - jumping about in  the street when the organ-grinder came. Emma has led 
such a constricted life,  and has probably imbibed a little of her father's 
fear and caution - she doesn't  find even the slightest venturing much 
outside the hedges of Highbury, pleasant.  It's hard to imagine that she ever 
rolled down hills, and she certainly had no  brothers and sisters to do so with 
her. And here we may be onto something: Girls  with brothers may be most 
likely to be drawn into their activities, and labeled  as tomboys. None of the 
remaining important female characters seem likely to  have been tomboys - 
certainly not delicate Anne, Mary Crawford with interests  centering around 
people rather than physical pursuits (though she is a natural  rider, she 
never sat on a horse before visiting the country in her early  twenties), and 
Jane Fairfax, who had a hard time to keep from falling delicately  into the 
sea at Weymouth.
 
So a variety. I think Catherine's tomboy period is detailed in the most  
beautifully naturalistic way, and I love the paragraph when Jane Austen  
describes how she begins to "mend":  "She grew clean as she grew smart."  So true 
in a teenage girl, to this day!
 
Diana

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