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Emma by Jane Austen

  • Date Submitted: 05/03/2011 10:22 AM
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Emma by Jane Austen

Like her other books, Jane Austen’s Emma is a character piece as well as a mildly satirical social commentary. In it she has created universal characters that are recognizable to anyone, showing us not only their inner voices but how they affect their community and society. The narrative uses the main character, Emma, to explore the effects of snobbery, arrogance and manipulation on the individual and his/her relationships. These are the main concerns of the novel and I will examine them in more detail.
Emma, the lead character, is introduced to us as a young girl who leads a charmed life; she is beautiful, clever and rich. She is loved by an indulgent father and lenient governess. The narrator has begun by taking a look at Emma from the outside, the line ‘seemed’ in the first sentence of the novel tells us that this description is actually Emma’s image, she is seen as being a perfect specimen when compared to her peers. Except, the description does not stop here, Jane Austen’s purpose of describing the individual in relation to society would not be served if it did. The narrator digs a little deeper and shows us that Emma has had her own way for most of her life, describing this situation as an ‘evil’. We can now see that Emma is more than just this caricature of female perfection. This is proven in Volume 1 when Emma chooses Harriet as her protégé. She is lonely after Miss Taylor marries and is looking for something to occupy her time. She is also flushed with victory over her success in ‘making a match’ between Miss Taylor and Mr Weston. We do not see what she has done to do this, but in her argument with Knightley, Emma insists that she encouraged it. Emma states her intention to continue matchmaking during this argument and focuses on Mr Elton as her next project. It is no coincidence that she fixates on Harriet soon after deciding this. Emma has Harriet in mind as a match for Mr Elton even though it is no secret that Harriet is...

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