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Emma Jane Austen Essay

1172 words - 5 pages

Every text reflects its context. Discuss.The changing social and cultural attitudes in society become apparent through a consideration of context. The transformation of Jane Austen's genteel, country society in Emma (1815) to Amy Heckerling's fast-paced microcosm of modern Beverly Hills in Clueless (1995), encapsulates the realignment of social values and attitudes towards female gender roles and social status over the past two centuries. Both texts work in conjunction to establish that whilst some aspects of society have changed, others have endured. However, whilst Austen does not offer direct criticism of the impact of the rigid social stratification of 19th century England, she does aim to bring attention to the plight of women during this time. Heckerling however, satirises the issues concerning both female gender roles and social status, condemning such sexist and hierarchical paradigms in 20th century America, reflective of the change in contexts.Austen's comedy of manners novel explicates the confined nature of women's existence in a patriarchal and androcentric context. Emma's geographical isolation in Highbury which "afforded her no equals" was reflective of many affluent women in the Regency Period. Emma's conception of Highbury as "the world" and the sixteen miles to London an unfathomable distance unveils a rural parochialism, despite her privilege. The novel's limited scope of action delineates Emma's limited world experiences as seen in her naivety and vanity in her matchmaking endeavours. Whilst Emma does not have "the usual inducements of women to marry," Jane must either work in the "governess-trade" or find a secure husband as she as not as financially or socially secure, showing the limited options for most women during this era. The tone of the narrator's authorial intrusion "how was she to bear the change?" of Miss Bate's marriage is purposely melodramatic to highlight the loss of identity occurring for women in matrimony. The novel focuses on marriage because the rituals of courtship are the most active role that women are permitted to play. Eventually, Emma, like Jane and Harriet, all succumb to gender norms by affirming the existing social order through marriage. Austen's positioning of Emma with relative choice in terms of marriage, highlights Austen's attention towards less secure women in Regency England such as Jane and Harriet, who are bound by the gender norms and expectations of the time.Despite greater freedom and choice for women arising from its postfeminist context, Heckerling discourses the issues of contemporary female gender roles in order to address the portrayal of women in postmodern America. Cher's literal and metaphorical isolation in the Valley is represented through the use of an overhead as she is stranded by Elton, reflective of her vulnerability. It is significant that Cher's instinct is to call Josh, a male, who is a transposition of Mr Knightly and epitome of male perfection. Emma is thus painted...

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