Birth, Education and Manners
Jane Austen's six published novels (Pride and Prejudice (1813); Sense and Sensibility (1811); Northanger Abbey (1817); Mansfield Park (1814); Persuasion (1817); and Emma (1815)) demonstrate the conventions of eudcation for Regency women in the landed gentry, which prescribed various feminine accomplishments.
In Persuasion, Anne Elliot's cousin Mr. William Elliot remarks that "good company requires only birth, education and manners ... a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing". Mr. Elliot reflects the common view of education in the upper classes; with regard to women, Jane Austen criticizes the limited model of education based on accomplishments designed to reflect women's domestic role.
Austen's female protagonists demonstrate a successful education in that they achieve the ultimate outcome of a woman's education: a good marriage. Notably, each heroine has a strong sense of morality which other well-accomplished women lack.
Moreover, Austen's heroines subtly revolt against the constraints upon women's education, whether it is Elizabeth Bennet's sarcastic wit in Pride and Prejudice, Fanny Price's stubborn resolve in Mansfield Park; Anne Elliot's romantic endurance in Persuasion; Emma Woodhouse's sense of agency in Emma; Catherine Morland's overenthusiasm for reading in Northanger Abbey; or the Dashwood sisters' polarized temperaments in Sense and Sensibility. Austen's depictions of rebelliousness are said to be self-referential, and indeed Austen's novels reflect her views on Regency society.
In depicting her heroines' experiences of education, and presenting them alongside unsuccessful models, Jane Austen evaluates the effectiveness of being "an accomplished woman" and suggests that one's moral development holds just as much value, if not more.