I recently read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, which was filled with commentaries on character and its formation. As a parent, I found the following observations by a father in the story quite thought-provoking:
He feared that principle, active principle, had been wanting, that they had never been properly taught to govern their inclinations and tempers, by that sense of duty which can alone suffice. They had been instructed theoretically in their religion, but never required to bring it into daily practice. To be distinguished for elegance and accomplishments – the authorized object of their youth – could have had no useful influence that way, no moral effect on the mind. He had meant them to be good, but his cares had been directed to the understanding and manners, not the disposition; and of the necessity of self-denial and humility, he feared they had never heard from any lips that could profit them.
Wow. Convicting words from someone who never had children of her own. I love reading Jane Austen: delicious fiction with a powerful moral undercurrent from an author with keen insight into human nature.