Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas P. Walsh


These excerpts from conduct and courtesy books of late 18th and early 19th century England illustrate the strict codes of behavior, speech, and thought which consequently stifled authentic expression of emotion during the era of Jane Austen. Consequently, a social pantomime flourished among English Gentry whose mere adherence to subscribed conduct codes inhibited one's ability to discern the true character and principles of Gentry men and women. Whether used for guidance or “artifice,” breeding and education created among the English Gentry a society in which public conduct was often misleading as “moral” motivation was easily disguised between mask of learned, accepted behavior: “the conduct books adumbrate a version of perfect society in which social behavior is the outward manifestation of inward moral commitment…. But unlike the conduct books, [Jane Austen’s] novels never assume that the relationship between morality and propriety is clear or simple” (Nardin “Propriety” 70). As Austen’s Characters continually demonstrate, conduct that adheres to the social laws of propriety may or may not result from good principles and morality.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1998 Sandra S. Hannibal.

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