This essay suggests that Austen’s portrayal of Bristol in her fiction has two specific functions. First, it underscores her topographical realism: the references to the city and its immediate environs show how her novels are set in the recognizably real world, even if Bristol is not described in great detail. Second, a character’s attitude towards, or connection with, the city and its surrounding area exposes significant aspects of his or her personality. A character’s relationship to place reveals a great deal; furthermore, the aspect of temperament that is exposed in the process may be linked to important wider themes of the particular novel in question. The connection between place and person is part of Austen’s “hyperrealistic” method, a technique whereby she used real life places and their associations to help inform an understanding of her characters (Barchas 9).
Ballinger, G. (2015). Austen writing Bristol: The city and signification in Northanger Abbey and Emma