How do you as a modern reader, respond to Austen's presentation of Mr. Knightley's guidance of Emma in the novel as a whole?

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Stephanie Michaelides


After the episode at Box Hill, Mr. Knightley says to Emma, ‘I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it.’

How do you as a modern reader, respond to Austen’s presentation of Mr. Knightley’s guidance of Emma in the novel as a whole?

        It can be said that Emma is a novel which is based on morals and manners. In the society, and the people in which Jane Austen deals with, we see the high expectations, the pride and mainly good use of manners in their community. George Knightley is considered to be a well mannered and respectable man, and we are shown good reasons to believe so, on many occasions. He is thought of as a ‘good-catch’, being rich with ‘old money’, and having very high status, but does not show any signs of snobbery to or against another person.  

        In addition, Mr Knightley has many good qualities, and we can see how fond Austen is of her ‘faultless’ character. We see him in many circumstances, (mostly) being calm, polite and sharp, never succumbing to rudeness. He is always pleasant and friendly towards Miss Bates, which shows the reader a very gentle side to him, even though many other characters get agitated with her rather easily. Austen also helps us understand how courteous and patient he is, whilst dealing with Mr. Woodhouse. He is a very annoying, infuriating man so by showing Mr. Knightley to be friendly and tolerant with him, helps us see what truly great qualities this man has. When speaking to Emma, we understand how much he cares for her, though sometimes he may seem quite abrupt.

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        Nevertheless, throughout the novel we see Emma’s countless faults. She seems to be inexperienced at the start of the novel, which can be said to ‘justify’ her childish behaviour. Though it appears that she does not know a lot about life in general, acting spoilt and immature; we are soon shown of her sharp, intelligent and kind self, which makes the reader realise of her desperate need of help. She is lacking parental support greatly, and quite seriously; it is clear to us that she has never had a mother figure to look up to, only ever having Miss Taylor ...

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