Filed under: Uncategorized
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with verylittle to distress or vex her.” – Jane Austen’s Emma
I was thrilled to earn and receive an A on my Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice stock character paper, and was also encouraged by my instructor to submit it to the school’s writing review. Thus, for the next few weeks I will be extra fine tuning my paper. Between the research and writing of the paper I found the few odd moments to conclude Austen’s novel Emma too.
In many ways, Emma differs from Austen’s previous novels. Our heroine Emma Woodhouse faces no plight of financial or social existence that hinges on a good marriage. However, a theme of women “marrying up” persists in every marriage (and the book is full of them!). In addition, there is no clear cut villain such as Wickham or Willoughby. Instead, the closest Austen comes to a villain are Mr. Churchill and Mr. Elton. These two men are less of villains and more of cowards as a result of social and familial expectations.
While the heroine does marry in the end (to her brother-in-law’s brother) it is after much insistence that she will never marry or fall in love, and the resulting marriage has her husband moving into her household rather than the reverse. A special circumstance does exist as Emma does not wish to leave her (amusingly) sick father, which implies that perhaps her insistence was more to do with protecting her pride and heart.
Emma very much is a novel about matchmaking and the million small degrees of social status that exists. In regards to her own Yenta-like habits, Emma reflects that “The first error and the worst lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more” (763). From decorum books I have read of the period I understand that matchmaking was not a thing to do, and was looked upon poorly.
The social statuses in the novel vary greatly from the Woodhouse home (where Emma is line for a 30,000 pound dowry if I recall correctly), to her ex-governess’ new matrimonial abode with Mr. Weston, to the now impoverished but once established Bates family. The novel thoroughly explores issues of marriage and relationship propriety for the people of Highbury. Since concluding Emma I have started on Northanger Abby, which is sensational. If anyone has ever doubted Austen’s wit, vivacity, and charm it is because they have not read NA!