Jane Austen and the Sonata Form

During my research for Georgiana Darcy’s story in WHAT JANE AUSTEN DIDN’T TELL US!, I learned some things about Jane Austen, the pianist.

Jane Austen studied piano until the age of 21, which would imply a serious interest in music and it was her custom to play every morning before she wrote.

Austen was particularly fond of the composer, Ignza Pleyel (a student of Haydn) whose work was described as possessing a “charm of simplicity and feeling.”

Today, I found it interesting and compelling, when listening to Pleyel’s Sonatina in D Major in its sonata form (exposition, development, and recapitulation), to imagine Jane Austen, the musician.  Did she, I wonder, internalize the sonata three-part formula for her stories?  Her novels, as we know, are in three-part volumes.  There are some that speculate that, in fact, she did.

pianokeysIn Pride and Prejudice the story’s main characters and theme quickly unfold as in the first part of a sonata, the exposition, in which the main theme is exposed.

Most of the action and emotional chaos in Pride and Prejudice takes place in Volume II, just as in the second part of a sonata, the development, in which chaos and unfamiliar notes take place.

Lydia’s return to safety and accepted marriage proposals bring back the main theme of marriage in Volume III, just as in the third part of the sonata (the recapitulation), in which the theme returns home.

Whether Austen followed the three-part-sonata formula or not, there is certainly a musical quality and “charm and simplicity of feeling” in her writing.

Posted by Mary C. M. Phillips, contributing writer of WHAT JANE AUSTEN DIDN’T TELL US!

One thought on “Jane Austen and the Sonata Form

  1. Mary C. M. Phillips January 30, 2018 / 6:58 am

    Reblogged this on Mary C. M. Phillips and commented:

    Today, I’m writing over at WHAT JANE AUSTEN DIDN’T TELL US! about Austen’s love of music and how a story outline might be influenced by a sonata.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s