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A comparative study: looking closely at the ways in which Austen and Spark reflect the main character(TM)s influence over others in both novels.

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Introduction

English Literature - Mrs. Harris A comparative study: looking closely at the ways in which Austen and Spark reflect the main character's influence over others in both novels. The theme I've chosen to discuss is 'the main characters influence over others'. I chose this theme because I believe it's a very obvious and recurring theme in both novels 'Emma' by Jane Austen and 'Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Spark. Both main characters are remarkably similar as of their influential and dominant personalities and this is what I'm going to be discussing. 'Emma' was set in 1815, during a period of war between England and the French and Napoleon. None of this is reflected within the novel, leading to some criticism towards Jane Austen for the "narrowness of the subject matter" at such a time. I personally believe her choice to write on such minute incidents within a small English community at this time in history has established her as the novelist she is today. 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' was set much later, in the 1930's. The difference in time is reflected in the language and dialect used by both authoresses. Emma is an unintentionally self centred, manipulative, extremely delusional character. I use the word 'unintentionally' because in most cases Emma's intentions are actually good, but the outcomes are quite different to what she anticipated due to her lack of ability to visualize what is quite simply right in front of her, and with having "too much her own way...The danger, however, was at present so unperceived..." ...read more.

Middle

Martin's marriage proposal as she had another partner (Mr. Elton) in mind. "I shall not give you any advice Harriet..." claiming it a "general rule" that "if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him." Another aspect to consider of Emma's use of influencing is why she does it. In my opinion Emma's manipulative manner derives from her personal loneliness and a lifetime of receiving everything her own way. By attempting to affect or change the lives of others she feels as if she's fulfilling something due to a lack of personal goals and, effectively boredom. She's "...handsome, clever, and rich...with a comfortable home and happy disposition..." with no challenges to overcome or tests to face in the future. To support this point I've picked up on a few lines where Jane Austen brushes on Emma's personal unhappiness and isolation - "...Seemed to unite some of the best blessing of existence;" "And with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering intellectual solitude." "Hartfield...afforded her no equals." Another question to ask of Emma's manipulative manner is 'what gives her the right?' Jane Austen has set Emma in a very unusual position for a woman of her time - unmarried and rich, in power over her household and her town (socially), and dominant. One could say those are some of the reasons for her strength of character and role model attitude. ...read more.

Conclusion

For instance while Emma and Harriet discuss whether or not she should marry Mr. Martin, Jane Austen's use of wording highlights Emma's cunningness while slyly describing "the most agreeable man...does any body else occur to you at this moment?" Jane Austen also subtly places a comical twist on what Emma says, without either characters actually finding the situation funny - "I shall not give you any advice, Harriet" and the next thing she says - "...ought to refuse him...do not imagine that I want to influence you." - The narrative voice establishes a strong sense of dramatic irony in this scene, contributing towards the ironic humour simultaneously - "...The bewitching flattery of that letter might be too powerful, she thought it best to say..." "The symptoms were favourable - instead of answering..." On the whole I believe Emma and Miss Jean Brodie are very similar whilst comparing their influential ways, and also the reasons behind their manipulative personalities. Both characters control others - with good intentions - however the outcomes are very different to what they had hoped for. In my opinion the subject I chose to discuss is an obvious, strong theme throughout both novels, and I've analyzed this theme thoroughly by discussing every aspect of their techniques in influencing and the effects of their actions. In my opinion both Emma and Miss Jean Brodie's acts of influencing have chain reactions. Their power over other characters lead to a delusional sense of self-importance, which leads to these misunderstandings and mistakes. Overall I believe Emma's influential and dominant characteristics are her main flaw. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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