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The Perfect Gentleman: Exploring a Development of Masculine Ideals in Jane Austen's Heroes


  • Jenny Rothman

Summary, in English

The fact that Jane Austen composed and edited her novels during two eventful decades in Britain’s history excites an interest to investigate if this has affected the creation of her characters. This thesis explores whether Austen’s heroes develop in accordance with a shift in masculine ideals that can be discerned around the turn of the nineteenth century. The masculine ideal for gentlemen can be seen to have transformed from politeness in the eighteenth century to chivalry in the nineteenth century. The aim for the polite gentleman was to please others with his own sociability. Towards the end of the eighteenth century this French inspired ideal was accused of insincerity and effeminacy. Thus, the medieval chivalry was revived as a more patriotic, trustworthy and manly ideal. This study reveals that there is a development in the characteristics of Austen’s heroes, which corresponds with the shift from politeness to chivalry. The first of her heroes is a gregarious gentleman who strives to entertain women, whereas the later heroes display more chivalrous qualities, such as sincerity and loyalty. In connection with the heroes’ adherence to chivalry, politeness is demonstrated in the anti-heroes who use it as an insincere façade.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Jane Austen
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Mansfield Park
  • Emma
  • Persuasion
  • hero
  • heroes
  • gentleman
  • gentlemen
  • Henry Tilney
  • Edward Ferrars
  • Colonel Brandon
  • Mr Darcy
  • Edmund Bertram
  • Mr Knightley
  • Captain Wentworth
  • eighteenth-century literature
  • nineteenth-century literature
  • masculine ideals
  • chivalry
  • politeness
  • chivalrous
  • chivalric ideal
  • polite ideal


  • Birgitta Berglund (FD)