I think it is interesting to look at not just the stories by Jane Austen, but the backdrop of where the stories take place. Location is vital to bring the story together. Not only does it make all the difference in the world to some stories (can’t tell a story about a romance at sea, set in London), but how does the location define the characters?
Take for instance, our beloved Elizabeth Bennet. What would the story be like if Elizabeth Bennet had been born in the city, how would her great passion for walking in the countryside have been accomplished? That is one of the strong characteristics of Elizabeth, what would she be like if that fact was changed?
What of Pemberley? Would Mr Darcy have been a different person if his estate had been located in Kent? Does the ruggedness and harsher weather help to build Darcy into the man he turned to be? If he lived in a milder weather climate, in tamed landscape, would he be different?
What about Persuasion? Would Wentworth have found the courage to approach Anne Elliot the second time, had she and her family remained at their estate? Or did the meeting in Bath, near the ocean, give him the strength to speak from the heart?
How about Emma? If she had been brought up closer to a city, rather than a relatively isolated community, how would she have behaved? Where she lived, she was thought of as one of the cream of society. Did that allow her to feel she could make decisions for the lives of others?
Would Fanny Price been different if she had remained living by the sea, rather than moving to the estate at such a young age? If she had remained at her family residence, in poverty, would she have been eager to marry, eager enough to have accepted the hand of Henry Crawford?
When looking at writing a story, vital clues to a person’s makeup come from their environment. The whole Nature vs Nurture debate. But it can make a difference in your characters.
To me, Fitzwilliam Darcy is like his estate, rugged, partially tamed, and a little rough around the edges. He is strong, possibly from enduring Derbyshire cold winters and surviving at such an estate. And his beloved Elizabeth, in my opinion, grows in strength from visiting his home. Her words declaring she loved him from first laying eyes on his estate can come to new meaning if you look at the estate and the surrounding neighborhood. Could she feel the type of man he was to be similar to his estate? Could she sense that his exterior covered the natural beauty beneath the surface, just as the ruggedness of the land did? Seeing how he had lived all of his life, did it give her the courage to understand him better? Pemberley was quality, but not ostentatious or gaudy.
While we are discussing Elizabeth, did the simpler life of the small country estate in Hertfordshire give the young lady freedom which allowed her to speak as she had with Darcy, when he was at Netherfield? She had the freedom to walk amongst nature, which was not as harsh, from what was described, doing as she pleased. The Bennet family was one of the highest ranked in the neighborhood, giving her family position in their neighborhood. She was comfortable in the nature, both at her father’s estate and at Kent, which was a milder environment than Derbyshire. Did that make Elizabeth bolder than she would have been, say growing up in the city or in a harsher environment in the North?
When you look at Persuasion, when we first see the good Captain and Anne meet at the estate of Anne’s brother in law’s family. To me, he lacked the courage to speak with her, was still intimidated by her world, a world where he had been told, by Lady Russell, that he did not fit in. When they are together in Bath, he became more daring, more willing to speak with Anne, make his desire known to Anne, despite Lady Russell being in Bath. Did he find the courage because he was near the water, where he was the captain of his ship?
The location can also ruin a character. In Mansfield Park, we see several characters who allow their surroundings to influence their decisions. Perhaps the easy going nature of the estate lulled those such as Maria Rushworth into craving more excitement, which she found in the arms of her lover, and for Henry Crawford to believe he can get whatever he wanted, first from Maria, then Fanny, returning to Maria when his attempts to marry Fanny fail. Had they been in an environment, such as the city, where there were more men to choose from, would Maria have married Mr Rushworth, or would she have waited for someone more suited to her wants?
So, what do you think? Does the setting for a story make a big difference on how the characters behave?