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Independant Essay - Emma

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How is the character of Emma presented by Austen in "Emma", and what methods and techniques does she use? In "Emma", Jane Austen uses a variety of methods and techniques to present the main character of Emma to the reader; mainly to change our opinion of her throughout the book. These subtle methods to affect the reader are apparent from even the first sentence: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." From the very beginning of the book, we are presented with a depiction of Emma, seeming to have the perfect life. Using an inflammatory first sentence affects the response of the reader towards Emma, a technique of using language that is used often throughout the novel by Austen. Immediately the reader is challenged by the author to dislike Emma; and has created a negative opinion of her from the beginning. Austen preys on basic human nature to get her desired response, as a reader will feel threatened or jealous by the description of perfection, as narrated in the opening few lines. The choice of words and phrases used in the sentence are key to giving the reader this particular response, for example "very little to distress or vex her." These words seem to imply that nothing should have happened to Emma to cause her distress, which immediately ensures that the reader begins to find Emma annoying. This may also perhaps leads them to sense that she has led a very cushioned and protected life. This particular beginning might also imply that she is selfish, as it would seem she is worried about being "vexed" - something that is quite trivial, yet to her seems very important. Again, straight away the reader begins to dislike Emma, as we can see her flaws strongly, even in the opening paragraph. ...read more.


Modern readers immediately see the differences in rituals and manner etc and so are able to laugh at things that they are not used to. Although in the initial part of the book, Emma is presented in a way that makes the reader dislike her as a person, other characters are present or introduced who slowly change this opinion of her during the course of the book. The character that achieves this most is Emma's father, Mr Woodhouse, who first appears after we are told about the impact of the loss of Miss Taylor on Emma. We are told "Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost." This portrayal of Mr Woodhouse is typical of his role in the book; he is a fastidious, stubborn and anti-social man who hates change. Even though Emma has lost her beloved governess and is clearly upset, he ignores her needs and yet thinks only of himself. This quote is a particularly good example of this, as it sums up (very discreetly) what Mr Woodhouse usually does. The "as usual" is the part that makes the reader realise that Emma will have to become used to having little company around her house, and the company that she has will not be very lively. The reader learns to see that Mr Woodhouse is as needy as a small child, and pities Emma for having to care for him. We sympathise with her for having no company, and perhaps see the depiction of the faultless existence we presented with at the beginning of the book was deceptive in that parts of Emma's life could be seen as not perfect. Another very successful method of presenting Emma in the book which could be seen as altering our opinion of her is by contrasting her with Jane Fairfax. ...read more.


Again, this is because people and especially women in the 19th Century would have been more courteous and polite about their feelings - so we would not have heard this comment from Emma if it had not been for her opinion in the narration. The main consequence of having Emma's opinions in the narration is that we begin to feel closer to Emma; since the reader is able to observe some of her thoughts. If a character has negative and possibly insolent thoughts towards or about another character, it instantly makes them become more realistic. It also gives the reader more of an insight into their personality - it enables us to relate to the character more. This is a clever technique of making the reader identify with Emma more, as we feel stronger concerning her and towards her as a result of her personality showing through via the narration. It is also a clever technique as Jane Fairfax is very proper, and we prefer looking down on Emma and her faults than looking up to Jane and her virtues. When Jane Austen was developing "Emma" she wrote: "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." Yet, despite her evident faults, most readers will agree in liking Emma Woodhouse much more than they would first have expected. She is more intricate, realistic and fully rounded than a standard leading character, and she rules the book just as she believes she rules Highbury. The way the reader's perception of Emma changes throughout the book is understated, but as we near the end of the book it dawns upon us just how much we wish it all to work out happy and positively for her. This is why Emma is appreciated by countless numbers of readers - the techniques used to present and portray her show her alteration in character so effectively that we cannot help but admire the way we have been subconsciously taught to like her by Austen throughout the book. ?? ?? ?? ?? Laura Clark 10G ...read more.

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