Chapter 30. The Trouble with Things: Objects and the Commodification of Sociability

  1. Claudia L. Johnson Chair and
  2. Clara Tuite Senior Lecturer
  1. Barbara M. Benedict

Published Online: 6 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444305968.ch30

A Companion to Jane Austen

A Companion to Jane Austen

How to Cite

Benedict, B. M. (2009) The Trouble with Things: Objects and the Commodification of Sociability, in A Companion to Jane Austen (eds C. L. Johnson and C. Tuite), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444305968.ch30

Editor Information

  1. University of Melbourne, Australia

Author Information

  1. Charles A. Dana Professor of English Literature, Trinity College, CT, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 6 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 2 JAN 2009

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405149099

Online ISBN: 9781444305968



  • The Trouble with Things;
  • Jane Austen depicting the relations between women, between women and men, and between members of the same and different social classes;
  • Austen dramatizes the overlap between the material and the moral, the collaborative and the rivalrous, through her characters' encounters in thing-cluttered spaces from shops to libraries;
  • Whereas Austen's men most often reveal their characters through the consumption of food, women are often portrayed through the symbol of jewelry;
  • jewelry exemplifies shifting of goods from traditional emblems of social relations to individually acquired symbols of self;
  • one of the most prevalent items of consumption in the Regency was dress;
  • the most evidently consumable of goods in Austen's work is food. Characters who eat too much or care too much about food clearly exhibit greed


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Shops

  • Things

  • Jewelry

  • Clothes

  • Food

  • Conclusion

  • Further Reading