• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"Emma is a novel about youth through self-knowledge." Discuss.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"Emma is a novel about youth through self-knowledge." Discuss. The learning processes that are experienced through youth often lead to greater self-knowledge. This idea is readily demonstrated in Jane Austen's "Emma" where the protagonist is established as an esteemed individual, living in the comfort and indulgence consequent of the limitations of her rural society. It is only when Emma opens herself to new experiences that she matures from one who lacks self-knowledge to a fulfilment of self-knowledge. The various events that occur ultimately challenge her viewpoint of the world she lives in. Emma's dealings with befriending and matchmaking Harriet and her misinterpretation of clues given by Mr Elton and Frank Churchill are events which lead her to first lose confidence in her judgement and which later propels her to greater self-knowledge. Mr Knightley is a key figure in her process of change, leading her to a greater acceptance of others' viewpoints. At the beginning of Austen's novel, Emma Woodhouse is established as the central character of the novel who suffers from a lack of good judgement and awareness of the world she lives in. Austen establishes this idea through her opening sentence, conveying the idea that Emma is "handsome, clever, and rich". The responder is given the impression that she thinks rather too well of herself as she has "been mistress of his house from a very early period". We are told that she has been spoiled and indulged by "a most affectionate, indulgent father" and governess whose "shadow of authority being now long passed away". ...read more.

Middle

Consequently, Emma's ignorance and lack of self awareness leads her to humiliation when she discovers Mr Elton's feigned interest in Harriet as a way of getting closer to Emma: "I am very much astonished, Mr Elton. This to me! ... Mr Elton, this is the most extraordinary conduct!" As Emma's plans go awry she demonstrates newfound signs of maturity through a greater degree of self-examination. She realises her mistakes and attempts to improve them as well as accepting responsibility for them. Emma's superficiality dissipates slightly and she learns not to make assumptions or judge on appearance. Likewise, Emma's overconfidence in her ability to judge leads her astray in her acquaintance with Frank Churchill. Without meeting Frank Churchill, Emma makes assumptions that she cannot support as when she refers to him as an "amiable young man". Again, Emma disregards Mr Knightley's good judgement. Emma's subjectiveness and tendency to favour Frank Churchill as well as her ever ready willingness to defend him on any grounds clouds her from viewing him from an unprejudiced perspective. This is demonstrated when Frank Churchill ridiculously travels to London "merely to have his hair cut". Austen sums up Emma's opinion on this "There was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such an errand." Emma is blind to Frank's "vanity, extravagance, love of change" and "restlessness of temper". These perceived self-indulgent qualities later manifest itself on the protagonist. Emma's worst qualities are indulged and fuelled by Frank Churchill's feigned interest in her. ...read more.

Conclusion

From this, Emma is able to trust Mr Knightley's good judgement while aiding the development of her own. Emma has transformed from a simple individual to a complex one who respects and accepts others' viewpoints. This is evidenced in her withdrawal from affairs concerning Harriet Smith's intimacy with Robert Martin. Emma starts to perceive things from a neutral perspective, and exercises her privileges for the greater good of her friend, rather than herself. She does not hesitate to admit her faults but instead, corrects them accordingly: "You need not be at any pains to reconcile me to the match. I think Harriet is doing extremely well. Her connexions may be worse than his. In respectability of character, there can be no doubt that they are." Ultimately, Emma has grown through the learning processes of youth to attain self-knowledge. The various events that occur during the course of the novel develop Emma into a rounded individual who possesses a wealth of self-knowledge. This was not achieved without the aid of new experiences that penetrated the stability in her life, largely through the limitations presented by Highbury society. Emma's overconfidence in her own judgement and her misinterpretation of clues given by Mr Elton and Frank Churchill, are important learning processes in Emma's education. With the good judgement of Mr Knightley and her own self scrutiny, Emma is provided with the impetus to improve on her faults. Her growth to maturity and correct judgement ultimately leads to an attainment of greater self-knowledge. In balance, it can be seen through the character of Emma Woodhouse that "Emma" is blatantly a novel about youth through self-knowledge. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Jane Austen section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Jane Austen essays

  1. How does Jane Austen present the themes of love and marriage in the novel ...

    This shows Emma to be some what arrogant as Mr Elton is too low for Emma but good enough for Harriet. She rejects Mr Elton because he doesn't come from a decent family, the same reason that he rejects Harriet Smith.

  2. Discuss the representations of class within "Emma".

    as well as Emma's superiority, particularly to Harriet, within it; these values are brought out into the Highbury society through Emma's snobbishness in relation to the class that she was born into. The character of Harriet represents what is considered as the unidentified class, and can be said to have

  1. An exploration of Jane Austen's use of the outdoors in Emma

    Another example of the parallel between a character's self-knowledge and attitude towards nature is Mrs Elton. While she considers herself "an addition to the society of Highbury"", Emma is not alone in thinking her "absolutely insufferable"12. She shares an (albeit exaggerated)

  2. 'Rebecca' by Daphne Du Maurier - Examine how the author users narrative voice to ...

    The narrative voice reflects on Mrs de Winter's personality. "At any rate I have lost my diffidence, my timidity, my shyness with strangers." This shows that's she has over came being under everyone else's spell and has a sinister tone to Manderley and to Mrs Danvers.

  1. Jane Austen said of Emma 'she is a character who no-one but myself will ...

    she seems as though her character is rather fickle. At the time when this book was written women were expected to marry mainly for wealth and social status in order to secure their future and well being. But in the 19th century at the time when this was being written, there had been a huge change in the social structures because of heightened industry.

  2. The Novel as a Medium of Global Expression - Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel ...

    In this way, Hagar is the one who indirectly responsible for John's death through her insistence that John should not marry the daughter of "Lottie No-name." Hagar compares the past with the present; especially with how Marvin has treated her and what road he has chosen to take in life.

  1. To What Extent Is Northanger Abbey a Gothic Novel?

    The weather is terrible and it is dark at night, this usually symbolizes that some "horrid" is about to happen, but it doesn't, hence mocking the gothic conventions further. Northanger Abbey is not a gothic novel because there is no mysterious death or horrific tragedy or disappearance.

  2. Morals and Manners in Jane Austen

    What's more Elizabeth is unable to find a husbandd. Their "well-bred, elegant manners" do not make up for their lack of good morals. Thus allowing the reader to believe that in fact, Jane Austen considers morals to be more important than manners in judging someone's worth. Similarly, Mr Elliot hides his moral nature behind his "polished" manners.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work