2 March 2011
A Short Analysis of Romance and Eroticism in Emma and The French Lieutenant’s Woman
While both novels explore the ideas of romance, Jane Austen is much more conservative in her approach to courtship and marriage. She includes traditional love scenes where men confess their love to a lady, or a woman speaks of her love for a man. There is no strong sexual content or intimacy between characters that is able to evolve into a steamy affair. There are certainly no intimate scenes within the novel and much of the romance is expressed through flirtation, superficial interest and courtship. John Fowles on the other hand explores romanticism and ...view middle of the document...
But before the seemingly happy ending can conclude the novel, readers are taken on a rollercoaster ride of courtship, love, sadness and disappointment. As the story unfolds, Emma deploys her matchmaking skills with several characters, only to find that the love she tries to create is unfruitful. Usually Emma realizes that her match was in fact not well made and her subjects were not suitable for one another. One example of a relationship that Emma tried to initiate, was the relationship between Hariett and Mr. Elton. Hariett unfortunately falls victim to Emma’s matchmaking plans several times throughout the entire novel. Emma tells Harriet that she should try and win the affections of Mr. Elton but later becomes disappointed when she realises Mr. Elton likes her instead of Harriet. In chapter forty, Harriet eventually tells Emma that she does not like Mr. Elton any longer and Emma is relieved. These complicated relationships are seen throughout the novel and they become a complex web of misinformed affection.
Emma is a product of the life and times of the era in which Austen was born. Her work is a classical piece of Romantic Literature and during this period, women were denied many things in life except for marriage and children. Social status was extremely important and society was seen as a hierarchy of people. During this era, their status and the families they came from defined the lives of men and women. Emma’s character defines what an upper-class young woman might have thought during the time of Jane Austen’s writings. There is a lack of sexual themes in the novel and Emma barely thinks about marriage, let alone erotic and sexual thoughts. Austen is writing a novel that reflects societal morals and values of her time therefore she manages to write about love triangles and teenage love without offending standards of propriety. There is no trace of any characteristic that may be considered a Harlequin novel; except for the satisfying ending that Austen has granted the readers of Emma.
Marriage is another acceptable role that women of Austen’s time would have to fulfill to become a fully functioning member of society. Marriage is seen throughout the novel and each marriage is defined by social status. In the very beginning of the novel, Mr. Weston is introduced as a man whose marriage fell apart due to the fact that his wife’s family was too wealthy and proud to have someone who was not as wealthy as themselves within their family (Austen 13-14). Readers are made aware that his new marriage was happier because Miss Taylor was a governess who was satisfied with what Mr. Weston had to offer.
Throughout Emma, marriage is constantly being compared to social status and this may be a reason for the lack of romance and eroticism in the novel. Since it was important to marry a man of high status or who shared the same social status as yourself, it was not important to have a romance or be intimate.
Another example of Emma’s failed...