Jane Austen’s “Evelyn” is a remarkably precocious tale that repays philosophical scrutiny. The protagonist’s absurd adventures reveal paradoxes about giving that Jacques Derrida would formulate much later. Austen’s project of imagining a true gift justifies the tale’s lack of closure and realism. Yet the gift is not just one theme among others: since giving is intrinsic to literary language and its production, the tale’s concern with giving reflects the challenges faced by Austen as a writer. “Evelyn” provides an oblique commentary on the political, economic, and even ecological interests of the late eighteenth century.
"Jane Austen's "Evelyn" and the "Impossibility of the Gift","
Criticism: Vol. 60
, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol60/iss1/3