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Discuss Jane Austen's portrayal of her central character in the opening chapters of the novel in terms of her social class, status and interaction with other main characters.

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Introduction

February 2005 Discuss Jane Austen's portrayal of her central character in the opening chapters of the novel in terms of her social class, status and interaction with other main characters. How far is this an accurate reflection of the social interaction of the period in your view? Emma by Jane Austen can be described as a social satire of the Regency Age and was first published in 1816. Austen uses the omniscient narrator to immediately introduce the central character, eponymous heroine Emma Woodhouse, in the opening chapter of the novel by describing her as "handsome, clever and rich with a comfortable home and a happy disposition," and saying how she "seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence," with very "little to distress or vex her." However, Austen's use of the word "seemed" may indicate that the reality of Emma's perfect and privileged life may affect her interaction with others and consequently cause her to have many flaws due to the fact that she is good looking, indulged and allowed "rather too much her own way." ...read more.

Middle

Mr Knightley guides and advises Emma with well-balanced thoughts and advice that genuinely penetrates through her self-deluding personality. Mr Knightley states realistically that Emma is wrong to meddle with Harriet and encourage her to pursue Mr Elton; he describes Harriet as "not a sensible girl," with "no respectable relations" illustrating the importance of marrying within the right social class and also a weakness in the character of Emma Woodhouse due to the fact that she manipulates situations to suit what she wants and can sometimes avoid reality if it does not agree with her. This weakness can go on to affect and hurt others, for example raising Harriet's hopes and expectations of marrying above her even though this is unlikely to happen. Another character who is responsible for Emma's behaviour is her father, Mr Woodhouse. Mr Woodhouse is at fault due to the fact that he is an over "indulgent and affectionate" father who fails to see weaknesses in his youngest daughter's character, therefore being unable to correct her mistakes and teach Emma how to consider other people's feelings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although Emma is described as a "spoiled child" by John Knightley, Austen also illustrates how self-contained her life is on Isabella's visit. Emma urges them not to "talk of the sea" because it makes her "miserable" and "envious" as "she has never seen it." Emma's life seems circled around little more than painting and playing the piano and this may be why she feels the need to meddle with other people's relationships for her own amusement. Overall, Austen introduces many themes and social rules and regulations along with the introduction of Emma Woodhouse. Emma seems to be a very lucky and privileged individual although she does not always make the best of her advantageous situation causing her to have an arrogant and self-righteous side to her personality. Emma's situation is not normal and her fortune sets her aside from other women as she does not need to marry for the sake of financial gain and security, this sets her aside from being an accurate reflection of social interaction of the times. However, Emma's conformity when it comes to social class rules and etiquette illustrates the class conscious society of Regency England and the importance of propriety. Harriet Nash L6MF ...read more.

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