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Explore Jane Austen's approach to the character Emma in the novel of the same name. What are the effects of social, historic and cultural influences upon Emma's development?

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Introduction

Lama Sankoh Explore Jane Austen's approach to the character Emma in the novel of the same name. What are the effects of social, historic and cultural influences upon Emma's development? 'Handsome, clever and rich' are the complimentary words Jane Austen lavishes upon Emma; accurate as they may be, they paint a picture contrary to the Emma portrayed during the first half of the novel. Set against the nineteenth century patriarchal society, structured by the privileges and constraints of money and status, both of which she acquires, a complex mental journey faces her. The journey, however is one she is oblivious to and one to which the predominate barrier is her apparent good fortune. Jane Austen plays the role of an omniscient narrator providing dialogue whilst also supplying constant commentary into the thought process of the heroine. Armed with her arrogance and additional ' unsavoury traits' Emma interacts with influential acquaintances that act as catalysts along her journey to self- discovery. Emma Woodhouse has, as a result of various events, had to grow- up quickly and therefore has mistaken her power, authority and prestige at an early age for maturity. ...read more.

Middle

Emma also recognises that Mr Knightley and Mr John Knightley are better judges of character than she is, ' those brothers had penetration' and describes her behaviour as 'foolish' and 'wrong'. However this progress is not sustained. Emma criticises Mr Elton for wanting to marry her to improve his status and 'enrich himself' which is ironic, as she wanted Harriet to marry him for this very reason. The reason why she never considered Mr Elton having an interest in her is because he is inferior to her ' in talent and all the elagancies of mind' once again her arrogance is in full effect. Although this misunderstanding reveals an aspect of Emma's character and she 'resolved not to' indulge in anymore match- making it is not long before she begins finding an alternative match for Harriet, outlining her lack of self control. Frank Churchill takes full advantage of Emma's immaturity and need for attention by using her for his own benefit. Before even meeting him Emma imagines him to be a good match for her, ' she felt she should like him', because of their similar social positioning and she also believes the feeling to be mutual. ...read more.

Conclusion

She can now ' thoroughly understand her own heart' and can see the error of her ways. Mr Knightley's proposal is largely due to the completion of her journey as he was unable to reveal his feelings previously, as she did not have the degree of maturity to deal with it. Mr Knightley recognises Emma's development, he reveals that he loves her, ' if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more' and after proposing to her she accepts only after expressing concern for her father displaying her loyalty and love for her father. She also feels for Harriet and pities her during a time of elation. Unlike the all the other marriages entailed in Emma, neither Emma nor Mr Knightley seek economic security or social elevation through their marriage, Austen is insinuating that they will prove to be a successful match. Emma Woodhouse embarks on a journey to self- discovery, this journey encounters various set- backs as well as use full experiences. It is only when acquaintances directly or indirectly compel her to discontinue her vain attempts to manage people's lives and focus on her own that her journey is concluded. Emma is moulded into the accomplished young woman whom she always had the potential to be. 1 1 ...read more.

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