Embarrassment in Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility
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This paper examines the pervasive theme of embarrassment in two Austenian texts. The pervasiveness of embarrassment can easily be explained by the historical context of both literary texts. Because of its recognisable nature, a character’s embarrassment is recognised both by other characters and readers, even if it is not explicitly named. Characters’ embarrassment expresses their sentiments that they are not able articulate verbally. As such Austen, through embarrassment, seems to criticise the norms and expectations imposed by society. Moreover, demonstrations of embarrassment are valued and looked at favourably in the texts. In fact, the embarrassability of a character functions as an important identity marker. Because they are almost never alone, whom the characters are with drastically changes the workings of embarrassment. Embarrassment also works to maintain tension throughout the novels as they keep characters from resolving important situations. Similarly, embarrassing scenes often foreshadow future events within the literary texts. Thus, embarrassment manifests itself on many different levels and in many different ways in Austenian fiction. However, the present study looks only at two novels and future research could reveal a wealth of further findings among a variety of topics and across more Austenian works.