"Discuss the development of Mr Knightly's character in chapters 1-30 - Is he a man of my mystery, or is he a straight forward man?"

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“Discuss the development of Mr Knightly’s character in chapters 1-30 – Is he a man of my mystery, or is he a straight forward man?”

Helen Mullis 12FA

    Mr George Knightly is one of the principle characters in “Emma” by Jane Austen. He is a good friend of the Woodhouses’ and consequently he appears in much of the novel. We know quite a lot of the facts about Mr. Knightly reasonably early in the novel. For example, he is a wealthy gentleman of thirty-seven years, unattached matrimonially, whose brother, John, is married to Isabella, Emma’s sister. John is a Lawyer and lives in London with his rather large family. Mr Knightly, being the eldest of the two brothers, has inherited the estate at Donwell Abbey, which neighbours Highbury. He also has the most consequential circumstances of anybody in the novel. These are indisputable facts about Mr. Knightly; they do not change throughout the course of chapters 1-30.


    What does change however, is the way the reader perceives Mr Knightly. This is inevitable with the progression of any novel and, it is also fair to add that the reader does not need to alter their view of Mr Knightly as much as other characters – Frank Churchill, for example. Mr Knightly is one of the first characters the reader meets, as he appears in chapter one. This is the night of Mr Weston and Miss Taylor’s wedding where he walks to Hartfield to pay a visit, even though he has not long returned from a visit to John and Isabella in London. It is here that the reader gets their first insight into Mr Knightly’s character. Austen says that he was “a sensible man” and was a “very old and intimate friend of the family”, a “frequent visitor” and “always welcome”.

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   This begins to convey Austen’s great respect for Mr. Knightly. The reader thinks well of him, not only because Austen clearly does but through their own deductions. The mere fact that he has chosen to visit Emma and her father that night rather than wait for the morning, which would probably have been more convenient for him is admirable. He obviously cares deeply for the family and is intuitively sympathetic to their feelings. He knows that this will be a bad time for them, the first night in a very long time without Ms Taylor and has gone ...

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