Jane Austen's Approach to the Character Emma in Pride and Prejudice
'Handsome, clever and rich' are the complimentary words Jane Austen
lavishes upon Emma; accurate as they may be, they paint a picture
contrary to the Emma portrayed during the first half of the novel. Set
against the nineteenth century patriarchal society, structured by the
privileges and constraints of money and status, both of which she
acquires, a complex mental journey faces her. The journey, however is
one she is oblivious to and one to which the predominate barrier is
her apparent good fortune.
Jane Austen plays the role of an omniscient narrator providing
dialogue whilst also supplying constant commentary into the thought
process of the heroine. Armed with her arrogance and additional '
unsavoury traits' Emma interacts with influential acquaintances that
act as catalysts along her journey to self- discovery.
Emma Woodhouse has, as a result of various events, had to grow- up
quickly and therefore has mistaken her power, authority and prestige
at an early age for maturity. Due to her mother's death and her
sister's marriage she is the mistress of her house, which in her time
was the main objective of a woman's life, so Emma having achieved this
status so early in her life is regarded as being superior to other
females. Austen is suggesting that she is a victim of her ' indulgent
father's affection and being so well thought of within her community,
furthermore having encountered no source of criticism from her father
or governess regarding her behaviour, has prevented her recognising
and therefore correcting her imperfections.
During Emma's time, young ladies could not work and therefore had vast
amounts of time on their hands. So living at home with only her
elderly father, who is 'no companion' for her, Emma's spare time, is
spent arranging individual's marriage destinies. Emma has lived a
confined existence, which has obstructed her from developing any
The occasion of her ' beloved' governess' marriage is to Emma the
result of her match making. She is full of self- praise for being
successful at what she describes as the 'greatest amusement in the
world'. Austen is introducing Emma, at the very beginning of her
journey as a bored self- important young lady who 'indulges in her
imagination', as a source of entertainment.
Mr Knightley is Emma's bachelor brother- in- law and neighbour who is
a key factor to her progress. He is one of the few people 'that could
see faults in Emma' and certainly the only one who informed her of
them. Being wise, possessing great experience and holding a
'gentleman' status enables him to confront Emma in a way most people
could not, ' Emma knows I never flatter her'. He helps Emma to free
herself of delusions.
Harriet Smith unknowingly...