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Compare and Contrast how Jane Austen Represents Social Class In Emma and Pride and Prejudice

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Compare and Contrast how Jane Austen Represents Social Class In 'Emma' and Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Emma', share many obvious traits. Both are classed under the genre 'comedy of manners', both centre around life and love in regency England, and both can teach us a great deal about the complex class structure of the time. Although Austen had neither the great wealth and status of Emma Woodhouse, nor the need to marry for financial security of Elizabeth Bennet, I believe it is safe to say here interpretation of life in her novels could be pretty close to actuality. It is this I am going to investigate further in this essay, how Austen represent the class structure of her day in her writing and how these two novels in particular compare in regards to this theme. Central to each novel is it's heroine's position in society. Of Emma, We learn that their village, Highbury 'afforded her no equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them'. (chapter1, page 9) From her we see life through the eyes of the most privileged. She doesn't need to marry herself so take's great pleasure in match making her friends. On the other hand, we are made aware of the necessity of marriage to Elizabeth, and the other Bennet sisters, straight away, through conversation between Mr and Mrs Bennet, which serves as the opening chapter of 'Pride and Prejudice'. ...read more.


Both 'Emma' and 'Pride and Prejudice' are dialogue driven novels, and this dialogue helps the reader distinguish further differences between the social statuses of the characters. There are too many examples to mention them all; in my opinion the voice of every Austen character is faithful to its background. For instance Emma's manner of speaking is precise and elegant, she has long, intelligent conversations, particularly with Knightley, and often makes a witty remarks. Harriet on the other hand, in keeping with her inferior status in comparison to Emma uses much simpler language, and shorter, more hesitant sentences. In 'Pride and Prejudice' Elizabeth's voice shows her to be as intelligent and witty as Emma, but, in-keeping with her social position, is slightly less formal and considered than Emma's. Austen's use of caricature has two main objectives, to inject comedy and to satirically represent stereotypical characteristics of the class extremes. Lady Catherine in 'Pride and Prejudice' is the typical snobbish aristocrat, the numerous references to her making those around her feel inferior, from the narrator: 'Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them, such as to make visitors forget their inferior rank' (29,159), from Mr. Collins: 'Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved' (29,158), and from her own dialect: 'Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to..... You shall try it some day' ( 29,161), are so overt it becomes humorous. ...read more.


Finally what of our heroines, they both go on to marry men they truly love; however the journey to their final partners couldn't of been more different. Emma and Knightley seem such an obvious match from the beginning. Austen gives us numerous clues through out the book. They both hold the highest positions in their community, they obviously get on very well and are very open and honest with each other, and notice how Knightley reacts when Emma suggests they are like brother and sister 'Brother and sister! No, indeed.' (38.310), the use of exclamation mark gives us a clue to how shocked he is by this thought. Their partnership seems inevitable through out the whole book, as does Harriet and Mr. Martin's; they maintain the social norms of the time. The marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcey in 'Pride and Prejudice' however, defies social norms, it would be most unlikely in the real world for a woman in Elizabeth's position, with her family and lack of money to marry someone of Darcey's social standing. However we see love conquering class prejudice here. Why such a fairytale ending to a book that has so full of realistic class prejudice? We must remember Austen's original audience might have been girls just like Elizabeth herself, facing similar prejudices and worries for their own futures, offering them a degree of escapism, and maybe even hope of a happy ending for themselves could only have made her books more popular. In terms of the realistic social commentary Austen was so credited for 'Emma' is perhaps the best example. ...read more.

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