Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel by Jane Austen, possibly written in 1794 but not published until 1871.
Although the primary focus of this work is the selfish behaviour of Lady Susan as she engages in flirtations and searches for suitable husbands for herself and her young daughter, the real action shares its importance with Austen’s manipulation of her characters' behaviour by means of their reactions to the letters that they receive. The protagonist adds additional interest by altering the tone of her own letters based on the recipient of the letter. Thus, the character of Lady Susan is developed through many branches as Austen suggests complications of identity and the way in which that identity is based on interaction, rather than in isolation. Lady Susan’s character is also built by the descriptions of the other letter-writers; but even though their opinions of this protagonist coincide with the image that develops from her own letters, Austen demonstrates the subjectivity of the opinions by presenting them – primarily – in the letters of one woman to another, thereby suggesting the established literary motifs of feminine gossip and jealousy. Readers recognize these subjective motifs and examine the idiosyncrasies of the characters in order to create their own opinion of Lady Susan, as they would with a real acquaintance.
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