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Emma By Jane Austen Essay

1828 words - 8 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

In fact, Harriet, humble and accepting of her status, is quite the opposite of Emma. Emma believes that this will not be a problem; despite arguments from Knightley to the contrary she insists that her patronage is powerful enough to elevate Harriet’s status. Despite this arrogant assumption, it is still contradictory that Emma would associate with Harriet when her snobbery and arrogance is being established at the same time. Emma’s self-image is tied in with her social status; and her arrogance stems from the knowledge that she is above all her peers according to societal values. Thus, she refuses to associate with those she thinks are below her, see for example this line about Mr Martin (Emma to Harriet) ‘…a farmer can need none of my help, and is therefore in one sense as much above my notice as in every other he is below it’. Therefore, choosing Harriet to be her companion would have been out of character for Emma. She seems to convince herself that she is going to help Harriet by assisting her to become a more accomplished young woman. At first, we take this as face value, Emma may be arrogant but it is clear she has a good heart and intends to help others. However, as volume 1 continues we see that Emma is also interested in validating herself under the guise of assisting and matchmaking. We have seen this through her conversations with Knightley, who challenges her and calls her out on her faults (discussed above) and when she thinks about Jane with unfounded animosity. Her feelings towards Jane is quite telling, although Emma never really engages with them enough to understand their root, the lack of reason for her dislike tells us that she is envious because Jane is more accomplished and is highly esteemed in higher social circles, despite her lack of wealth. Emma, who is invested in her image of being the alpha female in Highbury feels threatened and insecure when Jane is mentioned or is around. Now Emma’s actions make more sense to us, she chose Harriet because she could do what she wished with her and because Harriet would validate her image through flattery and subservience. In fact, Harriet is sickeningly subservient and dotingly grateful to Emma, while Emma, instead of keeping her best interests in mind, tries to make her fit into her master plan. From this we see that Harriet is like a puppet in a game that Emma is playing to amuse herself. We can see how the narrative claim that Emma being Mistress of her own house from a young age was ‘an evil’ has come into play. She does not see the people she involves in her schemes as people; they are just caricatures to fill the roles she has set out for them. We see now that Emma’s matchmaking and patronage of Harriet is also motivated by her need to uphold her authority and her own will. This theory is proven when Harriet speaks of the Martins, Emma is impatient to drive them out of Harriet’s life; they do not serve her purpose of making a good match for Harriet with Mr Elton. She...

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