Dr. Spock in the 1790's
Posted by Helen on September 24, 1997 at 09:13:09:
In response to Jane's Kids, written by Jane Elizabeth on September 23, 1997 at 14:55:18
] The descriptions in S&S of the spoiled and annoying Middleton children (and horrid Lucy's dealings with them) are grimly true to life, as are the parental failings of the Musgroves. Austen had high ideals on what constituted good parenting; witness the Bennets and the Bertrams. Or maybe badly reared children are just more interesting than well brought up ones? (Every happy family is the same...)
] I think she would have been less hard on parents had she been one. She may have been close to her neices, but any parent will tell you that proximity is not the same as responsibility.
] PS: There was a discussion of Margaret a while back on this board. And be careful when drawing conclusions about Austen based on this film. Margaret is far less developed in the book.
I do think that part of the reason why there are spoilt children in the novels (young children, I mean, as opposed to grown characters who are selfish and rude) is that it reflects the fashion for "letting your children express themselves and develop rather that disciplining them" which was around during the turn of the 18th century, drawing on the ideas of Rousseau, the French Dr. Spock. Rousseau, like all such theorists about childcare, didn't actually raise any himself - he dumped his at an orphan asylum...
It seems that Jane Austen belongs to the "children should be seen and not heard" school: children need to learn how to conform to the adult world and its manners.
What interests me about Margaret, however, is that in the book she is 14, and presented as not very mature in her outlook. Yet Lydia in P&P is 15 and ready to run away with a young man! (I know this isn't terribly mature, either, but she certainly considers herself adult).
Is this another example of Jane Austen's insight into human nature - showing the different stages of adolescence which we all reach at different times?
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