Voyant: Jane Austen Corpus

First question: How big of a theme is marriage throughout Jane Austen’s novels?

Going into this, I knew that most, if not all, of Jane Austen’s novels touches upon marriage in some aspect, whether it be a major focus or something that occurs to fulfill the typical marriage plot ending. What I wanted to look at was which novels were most concerned with marriage, and what appears to be the circumstances that might cause it to be more prevalent or not.

To do this, I went rather general with the words that I looked up, and searched: marry*, marriage*, wedding*, husband*, and wife*. The words marry, marriage, wife, husband seemed to be consistently at the top when looking at trending words, and was especially high in the books Emma, Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice. Across all the books, it was specifically the word wife that stuck out to me the most, especially because it was the highest of the words for Emma and often very close to the top for several of the other books.

Looking at the context of the term, it seems to often come up in relation to men and the idea of having a wife, or being a wife.

With this I go to my second question: What is the importance of having a title within these novels, specifically for men?

I looked up common English honorifics such as: Mr., Sir, and Lord. I also looked up the word gentleman, because it can be used to refer to a specific type of man within society, especially at the time these books were written.

The title Mr. is regarded as one of the most used words across all six Austen novels, appearing a total of 3,011 times, so it was not surprising that it was at the top of the trending terms. Sir comes up as second for all of the books, though it was not nearly used as much as Mr. Lastly, Lord and gentleman were both rarely used across all six novels.

This was interesting because it allowed me to think about the exclusivity of titles such as “Sir” and “Lord” as compared to a more general one such as “Mr.” The former titles can only be used by people of a specific status, while the latter is much more general. Another search using the word “baronet” shows that it’s only used 26 times. Perhaps this can be used to understand the audience that Austen is writing to, by looking at the class status of the characters she is writing about.

This brings me to the final question: What role does wealth play across all of the novels?

I ended up searching words such as: Fortune, pounds, money, and rich (which I took into account that it may also be used non-monetarily and also as a shortened version of Richard).

Fortune ended up at the top for the trending across all of the books, and looking at the context for the different books it was mostly used in relation to money. The word pounds was actually at the bottom for four out the six books. It was second to last for Pride and Prejudice. But for Sense and Sensibility it was actually rather close in trending to fortune. Looking at the context, there seemed to be much more talk of money and specific amounts in Sense and Sensibility as compared to other Jane Austen novels. The word money was interesting because in a lot of the novels it seems to be often tied to talk of marriage.

This was an extremely interesting process, because of how it allows you to look at a corpus without having to actually read and understand the full context everything that is being shown. The little bits of context lines that are shown for individual words don’t reveal how the story is playing out. By looking at single words, it allows concepts and ideas to be highlighted among a large body of text. This allowed room for more nuanced ideas to form about Austen’s novel, just based on my original general question about marriage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *