Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lucy McDiarmid

Committee Member

Monika Elbert

Committee Member

Melinda Knight


Jane Austen (1775-1817)--Criticism and interpretation, Jane Austen (1775-1817)—Characters--Heroines, Jane Austen (1775-1817)--Sense and sensibility, Jane Austen (1775-1817)--Pride and prejudice, Jane Austen (1775-1817)--Persuasion, Heroines in literature, Indirect discourse in literature


In this thesis, I focus on several encounters from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion. Each encounter is characterized by patterns of specific behaviors on the part of each text’s heroine. I examine these patterns of behavior and argue that they function as filters for allowing the heroines to resist directness. The filters are particularly valuable because, as sociologist Erving Goffman shows, directness amplifies threats of social and emotional vulnerabilities.

In Chapter I, “Evasions of Emotion in Sense and Sensibility,” I argue that Elinor’s encounters are typified by patterns of behavior designed to avoid, suppress, and deny emotion. I analyze the filter of evasion with respect to Goffman’s concepts of face-work and the avoidance process. In Chapter II, “Meta-Conversations in Pride and Prejudice,” I show that Elizabeth’s encounters are characterized by defensive behaviors and strategies that create shifts in Elizabeth’s conversations from discussing her social and emotional statuses to debating the structures and strengths of logic and argument. I consider the filter of the meta-conversation in conjunction with Goffman’s concepts of face-work, the avoidance process, and the corrective process. In Chapter III, “Interpretations of Hints in Persuasion,” I claim that Anne’s encounters are driven by verbal and non-verbal forms of indirect communication as well as the use of hint, which Goffman explicates and analyzes in his research. In each chapter, I examine the behaviors that characterize these heroines’ encounters as mechanisms that protect the characters from attacks to their faces and, consequently, to their emotions. The analyses of the encounters in this thesis show the various means by which Austen’s heroines recognize and protect their own emotional vulnerability.

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