The Ending of “The Marriage Plot”

In his essay on her in The Novelist’s Responsibility, L. P. Hartley writes that what struck him most upon rereading Jane Austen in old age was “the sadness to be found in all the novels”:

She did not write about Belsen and Buchenwald; she did not, like Dostoevsky, depict a human soul in the last stages of despair and dissolution, but she was acutely aware of suffering and sorrow; and sometimes, I think, in portraying them, she overruns the two inches of ivory which was the limit she set herself.

All of her novels are about getting married, in other words, but the marriage plot cannot contain the human suffering that Austen glimpsed all around her.

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The Ending of “The Marriage Plot”

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