Idleness and Incompetence: and Investigation into Jane Austen's Clergymen
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The Church of England is represented in all of Jane Austen’s novels through the presence of clergymen. These clergymen are not without faults, and their flaws are not unintendedly written. This thesis explores four of Austen’s clergymen, and argues that she used these characters to point out shortcomings of the religious leadership of her time. It starts with a contextualization to support the argument. After this it draws attention to the major flaws of Mr. Collins, Mr. Elton, Edward Ferrars, and Edmund Bertram. Mr. Collins is preoccupied by the relationship with his patroness. Mr. Elton wrongly prioritises the increasing of his financial means. Edward Ferrars is not concerned with being a clergyman, he just wants a quiet life, and Edmund does not seem to have the moral strength to follow his own principles. The consistency of writing flawed clergymen indicates that Austen used these characters as a form of judgement on the state of religious and moral leadership. These characters are clear examples of what could go wrong within the clergy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.