Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

James Nash

Committee Member

Lucy McDiarmid

Committee Member

Melinda Knight


This thesis explores the power struggle between the widows and young men in Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The focus is specifically on the power struggle regarding marriage: the widow endeavors to arrange the man’s marriage, while the man fights to regain his agency and masculinity by manying whom he chooses. This thesis examines the implications of these struggles between male and female and arranged and companionate marriages.

This thesis will also discuss the stylistic reflection of these struggles in the text. Jane Austen gives us male characters who are under the domination of a wealthy widow. While under the widow’s thumb, the young man loses his agency and has his masculinity challenged. A look at the grammatical construction of her phrases reveals that Austen continuously places the widows in the position of power, that is the subject or actor in the sentence. The young men who stand in anticipation of their share of the family fortune from the widows are placed in the position o f direct object, that which is acted upon, rather than the position of subject, he who does the acting. The young men are then left with the choice of sitting idly by, allowing the female to remain in power, or acting and reasserting the order of male domination.

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