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'The Knightley brothers embody all that is good in society. They are well-meaning characters who fulfil their responsibilities admirably, yet the reader may find them dull.'

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Introduction

'The Knightley brothers embody all that is good in society. They are well-meaning characters who fulfil their responsibilities admirably, yet the reader may find them dull.' In the light of this statement, examine Austen's presentation of John and George Knightley. Every novel requires a dastardly villain and a shining hero, who falls for the heroine at the end of the story. Mr and Mrs Elton seem somewhat villainous in their treatment of others, with the Knightley brothers - George, the elder, especially - representing such a hero and symbol of good. However, since the Eltons aren't really evil, and the Knightleys are so 'agreeable' and 'cheerful', it can certainly lead to some people considering Emma a dull read. As well as his personality and position, we are informed of Mr Knightley being the hero by his name: George, patron saint of England, twinned with the idea of a 'Knightley' man in shining armour, clears all doubt. As a Jane Austen hero, his purpose is to marry the heroine in the final chapters, after a novel's worth of witty banter. ...read more.

Middle

John Knightley, 'a tall, gentleman-like, and very clever man', is a more sombre character; equally as serious, yet lacking the cheerfulness George possesses. The fact that 'his temper was not his great perfection', it occasionally causes friction with the eternally 'easy, cheerful tempered' Mr Weston, and at their Christmas gathering, while the party becomes greatly excited at the sight of 'Christmas weather', John merely complains that: 'I cannot wish to be snowed up a week at Randalls.' This reliably bad temper allows John to seem a more impressive character than George, whose humour only fails when Emma upsets anybody, but he is still a figure of heroism and wholesomeness. While many of Jane Austen's heroes have fairly similar traits, the Knightleys appear to be the most angelic and show the fewest imperfections, although faults do become apparent. They both have the gift of astute judgement, displayed by George throughout, and by John when he observes Mr Elton with Emma: 'he seems to have a great deal of good-will towards you.' ...read more.

Conclusion

However, neither of the brothers is especially jolly, neither enjoying the Christmas atmosphere nor the accompanying dances. Yet despite his displeasure in dancing, George rescues Harriet from Mr Elton's ill manners and Emma notices 'Mr Knightley leading Harriet to the set'. George's greatest flaw is his thinly veiled jealousy for Frank Churchill, whose open flirtatiousness with Emma greatly annoys him; thus at every opportunity, he criticises and condemns the young man: claiming that Frank should perform his 'duty to pay... attention to his father' not by 'manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution'. He tends to put part of the blame on Frank's young years, which produces the effect that George is old before his time, condemning the youth for their foolishness. In short, a well-mannered person can sometimes be misconstrued as a dull person, and the lack of dark secrets in the Knightleys can create a boring image indeed, but since the heroine and her sister are so greatly flawed themselves, Mr Knightley and his brother are suitably matched to them, in order to finally restore balance in Highbury. ...read more.

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