Family Relationships Essay

788 words - 3 pages

Family relationships

It is debatable whether family relationships are central to the novel
‘Emma’ and are indeed the foundations on which Highbury is built.
Families may be viewed as objects of satire, as those featured are a
source of financial rather than emotional support. Throughout the
novel, status is built upon class position, material possession and
finance, its characters eager to display such ‘qualities’. This essay
shall demonstrate the emphasis placed upon wealth and social status,
identify and interpret corresponding family units, as well as explore
the use of match-making and marital agreements.

The large proportion of families, contradict the perception that
family relationships are the core of the novel and the foundations of
Highbury life. For, families featured are predominantly broken or
incomplete. The Woodhouses’ are one of the more prominent examples of
rich yet emotionally lacking families in Highbury. For, the
relationship between Emma and her father involves constant humouring
on Emma’s part. Mr Woodhouse is an example of Austen’s use of
exaggerated and satirical humour in order to emphasise the
inadequacies of many families and individual members. With the death
of Emma’s mother, a governess Ms Taylor acts as a replacement and the
only source of emotional dependence for Emma. However, in light of Ms
Taylor’s marriage to Mr Weston, it can be said that the clear source
of family support and intimacy is removed, deepening the instability
of the Woodhouse family at Hartfield. The absence of strong family
relationships with regards to the Woodhouse’s, reinforce ideas that
relationships are not at the core of society.

The relationship between Mr Weston and his son Frank Churchill is also
a clear demonstration of disregard for family value. The absence of
intimacy between father and son is reiterated in the changing of
Frank’s surname. The discontinuation of the family name is an
extremely strong suggestion that they cannot be deemed a family at
all. For the two rarely come into contact; very much satirized in the
novel and a subject of irony. Frank had never visited his father in
his home and it is heavily suggested that Frank’s later residence is
only because of the convenient location of his lover, Jane Fairfax,
who is also situated in Highbury.

The evident weakness of family relationships within the discussed
families can be used in contrast to some others, although the
minority. The Bates’ for example, on the one hand struggle to regain
their previous superior social status in Highbury. However on the
other hand, demonstrate the close family unit that many financially
superior family’s lack. For, the relationship between mother and
daughter is clearly of great importance and the family have great
admiration for their niece, bought up...

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