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Jane Austen's presentation of Emma as an unlikeable heroine

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Introduction

Jane Austen wrote 'I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.' Explore Austen's presentation of Emma in light of this statement, noting the effects of social, historical or cultural influences on the text as a whole. In Austen's Emma, the eponymous heroine emerges as an idol for the simple reason that Austen portrays her as being perfect. The definition of heroine is, according to the dictionary, 'a) a main female character b) courageous, brave, superior qualities, noble, strong (mentally and physically)'. Emma is the main female character of the book thus making her one type of heroine but in the case of the definition courageous, brave and superior, we can not be sure she is a heroine. In the book many look up to her but readers see her faults. She has many layers and during the course of the book each one of these layers is torn away. On the outside she is perfect but each layer underneath exposes her imperfections. Austen's fondness of Emma is because Emma has faults. Heroines are supposed to be perfect but she isn't completely perfect once she's explored into, this makes her more human and relates her more to readers. This makes her an idol to others but not because she is perfect, but for the simple reason that she has elements of perfection and imperfection, making her both excellent and awful. When we first hear about Emma, she is described as being perfect. 'Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition...' Immediately this creates a certain liking towards Emma by the reader and an instant feeling of idolatry towards her. Alternatively this may cause an automatic dislike for this woman as perfect people are disliked by many because of their ability to be too perfect. Accompanying this, Emma is very relaxed and stress-free. She lives an easy life. ...read more.

Middle

It makes her seem very un-heroic, as being spiteful is not a quality of a heroine. Neither is being unkind to someone less fortunate than you. This was downright horrible, it wasn't a genuine mistake, she knew what she was doing, people would not idolise her because of this. As a result of her actions Mr Knightley tells her off very gravely. At first she tries to laugh it off but then she becomes silent and doesn't try to defend herself. 'She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued?' Though the lack of defending herself might have been seen as her not really being sorry, it is most likely she was silent because she was so unhappy about what she'd done. Her action wasn't an action of a heroine but the way she felt afterwards surely was. Austen likes this about Emma. Little gets on Emma's nerves and all that does is her hurting someone. Emma is so used to not been restricted by anybody that she doesn't know the meaning of the word sorry. She's never had to say it and mean it. It shows she makes mistakes just like everyone but maybe she's never truly sorry because she doesn't know the true meaning of it. She doesn't mean it because no one will challenge her, she will always be forgiven as she is Emma. Because Emma has sincerity in her heart and knows when she's done wrong, she is portrayed as a heroine. Austen likes this about Emma, Emma does wrong like everyone else but her realisation of this bad deed and the way she feels afterwards is what Austen must like about her. We can see from his that Emma's good points and bad points make her the heroine she is. ...read more.

Conclusion

And this is what a true heroine is. Being brave and trying to make the world right. That is what Emma does. Yes she has faults which most likely come from the way she was brought up and her situation at the time. She can be a snob but her high class encourages that. She can be arrogant but the praise she receives from all promotes that. Emma is a heroine to a modern day reader because of her modern views. I feel that she can be horrid and is sometimes nosy, but I like the way she handles things that she does wrong therefore she is heroine to me. Emma is seen as perfect 'Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition...' This is only half of Emma's character, she is perfect, on the outside, but there is so much more to her. This is what Jane Austen likes, Austen likes that there is a lot to Emma that is why she made the statement I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.' Because she believed that she would be the only one who could see all these many sides of Emma. The sides we like and the sides we don't like. Emma being perfect and having faults makes her equal. She is a well-rounded person, who knows good and bad. During the novel, Emma overcomes self-delusion, as the things that happen in her life are some of the most upsetting moments of her life. She sees the world in a new light. This is like many of Jane Austen's Books. Like Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. They all defeat self delusion, and see the real world as it should be. Emma is a heroine who has faults and these faults make her the heroine she is because she teaches others when she deals with the consequence of her faults. ?? ?? ?? ?? Candidate name: Mariam Jimoh Centre name: Blackheath High School Candidate number: 1517 Centre number: 10606 - 1 - ...read more.

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