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Female speech in Jane Austens novels is heavily dictated by the whims of her male characters and although female speech is never entirely repressed in Austens fiction it is dictated so as to mirror or otherwise reassure masculine desire Johnson 37 However there are times when women stray from the gendered rules of speech and in expressing their opinions threaten male control over discourse In these situations men resort to either willful misinterpretation or forced silence in order to draw women back into their verbal control Mary Crawford and Elizabeth Bennet are two of Austens more dynamic threats to male control over discourse but even the meek and modest Fanny Price can become a threat by departing from the gendered rules of speech When she refuses Henrys proposal Sir Thomas is stunned having expected from Fanny a cheerful readiness to be guidedSh Her resistance implies an assumption of self-responsibility that challenges his authority Johnson 104 Mary and Elizabeth are atypical of Austens female characters in that their freedom of speech means that they do not need men to educate them or to form their opinions Other heroines such as Catherine Morland are lost without a man to guide them Without Henry Tilney to point out the natural beauty of Northanger Abbey Catherine should not know what was picturesque when she saw it NA 141 But Mary and Elizabeth are firm in both forming their own opinions and then expressing them They are aware of and comfortable with their freedom of speech Mary when faced with Edmunds disapproval of her flagrant speeches about morality and the church counters with I am a very matter of fact plain spoken being and may blunder on the borders of a repartee for half an hour together without striking it out MP 84 Mrs Bennet attempts to chastise Elizabeth for expressing her disapproval of Darcy but Elizabeth refuses to be silenced What is Mr Darcy to me pray that I
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