Explore Jane Austen’s presentation of Emma
‘Emma is a witty and intelligent woman, trapped in a society which is unable to fulfil her needs. ‘ I agree with this statement to a certain extent. Though in the beginning of the novel, Emma is portrayed to be a very happy, swaggering young lady ‘handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition’, Austen slowly but efficiently, shows the reader the concept of misjudgements, the irony of first impressions and the misconceptions we and other’s receive of people’s happiness and capability. Initially, Emma appears to be very proud and even arrogant.
From chapter one, we can see Emma is immature and vain. She predicts Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston’s love match, and feels very proud of her ‘success’. Here Emma undervalues others, in thinking only she could bring couples together. Though at the time, we do not understand how bored and lonely Emma is, we soon come to realise that she is not absolute with herself and seeks for happiness and companionship, but is too blinded by her status and underdeveloped mind to comprehend this; which makes her continue to interfere and hurt many people, without wishing or knowing shes doing so.
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Austen presents Emma in a very truthful and straightforward way, which helps the reader to understand Emma’s imperfections, whilst also showing her slow, but fine development. For the most part of the novel, some would say that it was hard to spot the heroin qualities in Emma. She meddles on numerous occasions, swaying Harriet’s mind on many events; Persuading her to decline Mr. Martin’s proposal, convincing her of Mr. Elton’s love for her, and completely confusing the situation of Frank Churchill and George Knightley.
The reader gets agitated with Emma, and wonders why she is so interfering; using Harriet as some sort of puppet she can use her spare and bored time on. From this, Austen illustrates her heroin’s flaws, though still giving us pieces of Emma which truly are remarkable. We see a different side to Emma when she is with her family. When her sister and brother-in-law visit her and her father for ten days, it is the first time that Austen helps the reader understand Emma, showing her as a genuine person, as appose to a valued, rich young lady.
By protecting her sister from her husband’s snide comments, we see how close her and Isabella are, whilst also noticing that behind the silly, immature girl, there is a very sharp and witty character who is waiting for the chance to show her full potential. We are also shown Emma’s family value when she is with her father. Austen introduces the reader to an extremely difficult man from the very beginning when he is talking of ‘poor Miss Taylor’ finding a husband and moving away from their estate, we soon realise how selfish this man is being, wanting everyone around him, paying attention to only him.
He is shown as a very fussy man, and it is soon clear to us that his personality and selfish ways, plays a huge part in Emma’s childish and confused manner. Through the novel the persona explains of his need of comfort and warmth, but at times it seems ridiculous to not only the reader, but also the characters. Many of them complain, though secluding Mr. Knightley being very understanding and friendly towards Mr. Woodhouse at all times.
Emma is the one person who has had to deal with all his complaints and whinging throughout most of her life, and Austen makes us realise that she does have troubles and a lot to deal with, which helps us understand her character more, which ables us to see the kind hearted girl she really is. The persona presents Emma in a very fascinating manner. From very early on, it is hard to see or recognise Emma’s good qualities, but as the novel progresses it is easier to understand Emma’s feelings in general, but also as a real person.
Throughout her development Mr Knightley has acted as her ‘mentor’, which helps her realise her mistakes and misjudgements, whilst also showing her that she is not superior to anybody else, (although she was brought up thinking so). Emma is a very gifted girl, and it can be said that the society in which she lives has held her back. The main reason for her underdeveloped character in a huge part of the novel seems to be down to her father. As she does not have a mother, it seems as though she has missed out on being a child, and cares a lot for her father, acting as a wife and a daughter to suit Mr.
Woodhouse. This is a very loving quality of Emma, but it has made her lose out on the love from a family which she truly needs. When there is a party, Mr. Woodhouse tries to stop her from going as he ‘worries’ so much about her. During the novel Mr. Woodhouse acts very selfishly towards everyone around him, but does not realise the consequences of what he has done and is doing to Emma. At first we find him amusing, then as the novel develops we find him agitating, but towards the end of the novel we find him ungrateful and extremely selfish.
Through his self-centred ways, we see Emma’s great, selfless qualities in not marrying Mr. Knightley as she does not wish to leave her father. For this society it is seems absurd that Mr. Knightley will move in to the estate with Emma and Mr. Woodhouse, which also shows the kindness in Mr. Knightley and the great love he has towards Emma. Though most people around Emma think she is a perfectly happy young lady, we can understand Emma’s true feelings later on in the novel, as the persona gives her point of view and feelings through Emma’s eyes.
This makes us see Emma as a true person, which friends and people around her find it very hard to do so, as it seems as though she hides her feelings and always puts on the same happy act. At the start of the novel she is a very bored girl, and acts on her bored instincts to meddle in other’s personal lives. The reason why she does so is because she has not concentrated on herself and her needs, in order to please others. This society has held her back, but her intelligent and sharp ways shine through in the end.
This is to do with Mr. Knightley’s caring, but stern ways, which helps her to find herself. At the end we see that all the games she played and the errors she made have made her a better person. At first she would not let her true feelings out, but once she admits and realises her love for Mr. Knightley, and all her mistakes and bad judgments, she is able to fulfil her needs, and seems as though she is happy and will be comfortable with her decisions.