The story, Emma, by Jane Austen, is a riveting tale about a heroine who through her determined will to assist others, realizes and attains her own dreams and desires. The story begins with 21 year old, Emma Woodhouse struggling with the loss of her governess of 16 years and a truly dear friend, Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor recently wedded Mr. Weston and moved half a mile away from the Woodhouses’ residence at Hartfield. Both Emma and her father are trying to cope with this drastic change and overcome their sense of despondency. Emma feels as if she has lost her best friend and is extremely depressed about the predicament.
However, Emma’s distraught and lonesome manner quickly changes with the arrival of Harriet Smith. Harriet, a young girl of unknown lineage, is a student at Mrs. Goddard’s school. Emma sees the reformation and refinement of Harriet as a challenge, and decides to take her under her wing. There is a rapid change of atmosphere and mood, as Emma is more cheerful and content because of her newfound friend. The two girls become best friends, and Emma’s wound from Miss Taylor’s departure gradually begins to heal. As the story progresses, Emma notices Harriet’s fondness of a young farmer by the name of Robert Martin. Emma feels that Mr. Martin is not worthy of her dear friend’s hand, and convinces Harriet to decline his proposal. Emma, confident of her own matchmaking abilities, then tries to make a match between her companion and Mr. Elton, who is a charming gentleman of an impetuous background. This reveals one of the themes in the story, which is social class prejudice. Although Mr. Martin’s earnings are quite respectable, Emma feels that because Harriet is a part of her life now, she should have the same opportunities and lifestyle as her own. Harriet can acquire this by marrying into a higher-class family.
Emma’s determination and will to make the match successful prevent her from noticing the clues that Mr. Elton has been leaving her behind. Those of which disprove Emma’s hopes of his interests in Harriet; but rather reveal his feelings for Emma, herself. Mr. Knightley, who is the brother-in-law of Emma, suggested to her earlier on that Mr. Elton had “a great deal of good-will towards [her]” (Austen 94), which can be seen as foreshadowing.
Jane Austen’s Emma – Rebel or Conformist?
Emma – Rebel or Conformist?
Near the town of Highbury, a village located in the eighteenth century English countryside, sits the estate of Hartfield where Emma Woodhouse resides with her health conscious father who finds fault with all of life’s necessities. When Emma’s governess and close comrade, Miss Taylor, marries Mr. Weston, an affluent neighbor, and moves to his nearby estate, sociable Emma is forced to find herself a new companion. Harriet Smith, a naive teen who lives at Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school, though of a lower class due to her illegitimacy, seems desperately in need of Emma’s management and counsel. Sure that she was the cause of the perfect match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston, Emma is determined to find an equally exceptional match for Harriet. The young rector, Mr. Elton, seems the perfect candidate for a future husband, and Emma sets out to match her new friend with the young clergyman.
The imaginative Emma views Mr. Elton as falling deeply in love with Harriet and greatly encourages Harriet’s feelings for him to inflame. When an old friend of Harriet’s, Robert Martin, who is equal to her in social status, sends her a marriage proposal, Emma quickly discourages it and helps Harriet write the letter of refusal. Mr. Knightely, Emma’s neighbor and close friend is greatly disappointed by this action and tells Emma that Harriet made a formidable mistake in refusing such an offer. Emma does not care for this response for in her eyes Mr. Elton’s feelings for Harriet are blossoming beautifully and are quickly being reciprocated.
On the eve of a dinner held at the Weston’s estate, Harriet comes down with a cold and Emma is disappointed in Mr. Elton’s lack of sympathy for the invalid. The sno…
… middle of paper …
…y were so rigid of structure that a person’s respectability was tarnished if they broke one of the standards. Emma Woodhouse tries to defy some of these codes, but finds that it is much easier to live up to the standards society determines.
Works Cited and Consulted
Austen, Jane. Emma. Ed. Stephen M. Parrish. New York: W.W. Norton