Posted by Jessamyn on April 02, 1998 at 13:29:55:
In response to Wondering about manners, written by Kemi on April 02, 1998 at 13:05:55
] I'm having trouble understanding just what Jane Austen means by the term 'manners.' To me, manners are chewing with your mouth closed and not putting your elbows on the table, but JA obviously uses the term in a broader sense. In all her books, the question of whether or not someone has 'good manners' is of the highest import. Mr. Frank Churchill and Mr. Eliot are thought to have "very good manners," while Mrs. Bennet's are horrible. How you relate to and present yourself to others in society are definitely part of what 'manners' entail, but is there more? Was there some sort of defined standard for manners? Thanks!
I'm certainly no expert, but I find it helpful to remember that the concept of "manners" comes from the "manner in which" you do things. It's not just remembering certain rules about what you should and shouldn't do (mouth closed, elbows by your sides) but the way in which you do everything--the manner in which you speak (articulate and not too loud), the manner in which you move (an elegant walk, bow, stance, way of sitting and gesturing), and the manner in which you treat other people (polite, with just the right amount of deference or subtle condescension, as required). Mrs. Bennet's manner is none of these things, certainly!
The most important thing about manners was that they set the upper class apart from everybody else. When Austen characters class someone as being particularly "gentle" or "gentlemanlike," they refer primarily to that person's dress and manner, and they can make that distinction in just a few moments. Years of training went into that adult product!
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