She created great characters
Jane Austen was one of the first writers to create realistic, complex characters in her novels. Before her, most novels featured characters that were two dimensional – they were either wholly good or very wicked. In her novels Jane Austen mixes things up, creating characters who are true to life, with good and bad points, who mean well but get things wrong, or who behave badly but we can’t help liking them anyway.
We get to know these characters through their speech. Jane Austen’s novels make use of more dialogue and less description than other novels of the time. Through this technique, we meet the characters directly – we hear them speak, as in a play or film.
It’s true that Jane Austen’s characters look and sound rather different from the people we know today. They are disguised by the formal language and social etiquette of 200 years ago, but if we look past this we can see that her novels are full of people we can recognise from our everyday lives. We all know a complacent Mr Collins, a boy-mad party girl like Lydia Bennet or a lying Mr. Wickham. The formality of the Regency period may seem distant from our day-to-day experience, but the characters within it are still recognisable.