Miss Augusta Hawkins, who becomes Mrs. Elton in Jane Austen's Emma, is an interesting character, in that she is unquestionably the most distinct persona in the novel. The fact that she is a new member in Highbury is not an issue for her because she wastes no time in trying to solve other people's personal problems and making their lives her business. In doing so, Jane Austen has created a character that the reader loves to hate.
Augusta Hawkins is constructed so that the reader is torn between completely despising and loving her when she is in the scene due to the spiteful comments she makes and the social lives that she `improves'. Much of the dislike that the reader has towards Augusta is due to the fact that we are seeing her as portrayed through the eyes of Emma. Before the two characters meet, Emma clearly shows resent towards her and decides that she does not care for Mr. Elton's fiancé. She even prematurely states that he must have settled rather than chose Augusta as his bride. These comments made by Emma also cause the reader to be biased against her before she first appears in the novel.
Miss Hawkins makes her first appearance in Highbury through conversations between other Highbury residents. Miss Bates being a busybody is distraught that Mr. Knightley was the first to inform others of the news of their engagement, but she is otherwise quite excited about the new match. There is a mixture of opinions on Augusta and Mr. Elton's engagement: Jane Fairfax displays little concern in the engagement, Mr. Woodhouse feels that Mr. Elton is too young to settle and is convinced that marriage removes people from his life, Harriet conceals her true emotions and shows modest attention to the news. Since few people of Highbury have met Augusta, the verdict of her is solely based upon the rumours that are circulating about her.
Augusta is initially illustrated as "handsome, elegant, highly accomplished, and perfectly amiable" (Austen, 185). Later on she is also described as charming and having perfect beauty and merit. In addition she is quite wealthy; this is relevant because the major issues in Emma are class and status. Augusta believes that money alone equals class, nevertheless her money gives her no strong class associations. Her father is a tradesman from Bristol, and her one pride is the fact that her sister is married to a very wealthy man, again showing the stress Augusta puts on having money. Augusta over exaggerates her own social position. Had it not been for her marriage to Mr. Elton and social climb following, she would not be associating with the elite of Highbury.
Mrs. Elton becomes comfortable in Highbury almost instantly. She not only begins attempting...