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How does Emma's management of Harriet's affairs reveal the important issues in Jane Austen's 'Emma'

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Introduction

Francesca White 12C How does Emma's management of Harriet's affairs reveal the important issues in Jane Austen's 'Emma' In this novel, Jane Austen uses the relationship between Emma and Harriet to highlight the important issues. She uses Emma's management of Harriet to do this. She creates contrast between Emma and Harriet; she portrays Emma as beautiful and intelligent though we can still see faults in her personality. The main fault is her desire to control people and match-make them. This also raises issues, including the position of women and Emma's social status, marriage and comedy which is shown through irony, especially in the relationship between Emma and Harriet. The first thing we read is 'Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich'. By beginning the novel with this quote, we can see the qualities considered important at that time and how Emma has a high social status. When we first hear of Harriet, we can see a contrast between the two characters. 'Harriet was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her several years back at Mrs Goddard's school.' We see that Harriet is an orphan which automatically contrasts with Emma's strong family history. ...read more.

Middle

A single woman, with a very narrow income, must b a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! The proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and common sense of the world as appears at first.' Here Austen is saying how stereotypical society was at that time, she is raising what she feels were the key issues of her time. Emma controls Harriet so much that she is sometimes unable to voice her own opinions. One example of this is when Harriet is writing to Mr Martin to reply to his marriage proposal, Emma more or less writes the letter for her. Harriet is loyal to Emma and looks up to her thinking she knows everything, therefore does as she says. The friendship is based on how Emma controls Harriet. There are many quotes in the novel that show Harriet's reliance on Emma and how she can't make decisions without Emma's approval, one example is this - 'But she was not wanted to speak. It was enough for her to feel. ...read more.

Conclusion

From the start of the book Emma has a view that she will not be married, yet we know that in the end this happens. One quote that would satisfy this issue is 'Oh! Harriet may pick and choose. Were you, yourself, ever to marry, she is the very woman for you.' This is a ridiculous thing for Emma to say to Mr Knightly, for a number of reasons. The first reason is that Harriet has no right to pick and choose who she marries at all - her position in society is not high enough. Also, Mr Knightly is of a higher class than even the Woodhouse's, therefore she Harriet is in no position whatsoever to marry him. This quote also creates humour through irony as the reader knows that Emma will end up marrying him. Austen portrays the character of Emma to be a matchmaker and a poor judge of situations and people. As the novel goes on we see, through her self realisation, who she really is. Through doing this Austen puts across her issues and issues/ morals. These are; Emma's/Austen's views on marriage and the position of women in the 1800's, and the way Austen uses irony creates humour through how na�ve Emma is when trying to control Harriet's affairs. ...read more.

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