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‘The reader’s response to Emma is often a mixture of sympathy and impatience. Select two episodes and discuss them in regards to this statement’

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Amanda Belden Dec 2001 'THE READER'S RESPONSE TO EMMA IS OFTEN A MIXTURE OF SYMPATHY AND IMPATIENCE. SELECT TWO EPISODES AND DISCUSS THEM IN REGARDS TO THIS STATEMENT' Continually throughout Emma the reader feels a mixture of sympathy and impatience for its main character Emma Woodhouse. The novel illustrates her vast change in maturity, which occurs in one year. Due to Emma's personality and disposition she will always get herself into difficult circumstances, but it is the way she reacts to the circumstances that broadens and matures her character. The first episode takes place throughout the whole of volume one, where she is in the throws of naivety, and the other is in volume three, which is where Emma has begun to mature and grow. One of the classic episodes in Emma when the reader feels impatience and sympathy for Emma Woodhouse, is when she gets herself involved in matchmaking Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton. Throughout this episode the reader becomes so frustrated with Emma for not noticing certain signs that seem to be so obvious to the reader and Emma's friend Mr. Knightley. Emma tricks the idea of matchmaking two people so different from one another out of her active imagination. When Emma takes Harriet Smith under her wing she has an almost selfish motive, as she needs a companion now that her governess has been married. ...read more.


Emma is so obviously mistaken about Mr. Elton's feelings for Harriet despite her attempts to secure their love. Mr. Elton spends the whole night around her and interrupting her conversations. Emma felt that throughout the whole evening, 'he was too close to her,' and 'perhaps he was beginning to transfer his affections.' Finally she is beginning to realise Mr. Elton's intent. It is now that the reader begins to sympathise with her as Mr. Elton's obvious affection for her is becoming suffocating. Although Emma has worked her way into her own mess, the reader knows she was doing it out of good intent. When Mr. Elton proposes to her in the carriage Emma did not see it coming. At this point Emma feels two things, she feels incredibly angry that Mr. Elton would ever consider asking her to marry him, 'she thought nothing of his attachment; and was insulted by his hopes. He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance to raise his eyes to her.' Emma is at the height of her arrogance in this episode and the reader begins to wonder why it is fine for Harriet to marry Mr. Elton and not Emma, and it is also at this point when Emma's snobbery is shown in full light. ...read more.


The reader also takes her attempts to repent with Miss Bates and Jane sincerely, for they are met with none of the self-pity and complacency of the previous episodes. Though we may have felt that Emma was lacking in tenderness and tact when she makes the cruel remark, and are put off by her snobbery, the reader also feels that she shows genuine repent for her sins. The reader has the privileged view of observer to all that is going on; we are able to see the mistakes she makes, able to laugh at her mischievous plots, while she is unaware of her mistakes. As the novel progresses, however, the reader comes to take her seriously, because of the nature of the issues addressed in the novel, and while at times we may be 'put off' by her snobberies and claims to importance, Jane Austen has written in such way that the reader feels sympathy for her. Emma is a character that is not so good as to be uninteresting, nor so cruel as to forgo sympathy. By presenting things from Emma's point of view for the most part of the novel, the reader is able to gain an insight into her inner thoughts and unexpressed feelings. It is therefore easy for the reader to relate to Emma because although she seems to have it all, she is a real person who is growing up. ...read more.

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