Preparing for the AGM: thematic questions for reading


“. . . tell me all about your brothers and sisters.”
What fun we will have talking about Jane Austen’s brothers and sisters! As you read for the AGM, keep in mind the theme and ask yourself these questions: Did you know that each novel contains at least three sibling pairs? Have you wondered why the Ward sisters of Mansfield Park are so different from one another? Is it their nature, or have circumstances alone created the differences among them? Is the plot in Sense and Sensibility influenced more by the disregard that John Dashwood shows his sisters or by the devotion between Elinor and Marianne, struggling with their new circumstances? Which has been more influential on Emma Woodhouse: Isabella’s absence or her presence? Why is Elizabeth Bennet so very different from her sisters? How can five young women with one set of parents range so completely across the personality spectrum? Why is Anne the only thoughtful sister of the Elliot women, when other Persuasion sibling pairs—Harriet and Louisa Musgrove and Frederick Wentworth and Mrs. Croft, e.g.—are so considerate of one another? Oh, what a Henry is Mr. Tilney! He is the perfect brother—isn’t he? Will we settle any of these questions after spirited and lively discussion? Perhaps not, but we will have a splendid time trying to answer these and raising many more questions about Austen’s brothers and sisters in the novels and how her own sibling relationships inspired and influenced those she created.

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