Jane Austen's Emma Research Paper

1001 Words5 Pages

Jane Austen’s Emma, is a novel that depicts the coming of age of a precocious Emma Woodhouse, who’s intelligence and wit make her unique within her social surroundings, though her vanity and pride highlight the social tendencies in 19th century England. The role of women in the 19th was a very confined one, with limited ability to exercise choice or will. Main goals for women of the 19th century included marrying into a high class, beauty, and keeping good temper. Emma Woodhouse, who proclaims she will never marry and exercises her intelligence, defies the simplistic norms of women in the 19th century. Austen’s free indirect discourse, motifs, and use of self-actualization develop the theme of gender and social stereotypes, which illustrates …show more content…

This discourse shows the novel’s implicit preference for Emma’s independence over the common compliance of women in 19th century England. This discourse creates an “objective” narrative that is figurative, and though she is never present in the novel, she has a significant role in the readers’ perceptions of the characters. “The narrator has 'refracted' her discourse through Emma, in this way diffusing the authority of the monologic authorial voice, permitting a voice of resistance to the marriage plot, to restrictive social codes and conventions, and to the constrained lives of women." In this quote, literary critic Daniel P. Gunn explains how Austen uses the influence that comes with narrating to underscore her true feelings about women and …show more content…

Austen, to illustrate the lack of free choice women had as wives, frequently points out occasions where women are completely compliant with men. For instance, when Mr. Knightley is explaining why he would suggest Miss Taylor as a wife he says, “you were receiving a very good education from her, on the very material matrimonial point of submitting your own will, and doing as you were bid...” (page number) Here, Austen very clearly dictates the blind obedience and lack of opinion or choice women were subjected to as wives in the 19th century. To create a foil to this social norm, the protagonist Emma Woodhouse vows to never marry and disapproves of men’s arrogance when it comes to marriage. “Oh! to be sure… it is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for any body who asks her.” (page number) In this quote, Emma completely rejects the notion that women should be expected to just comply with any man’s wishes (simply because they are a man), and believes that women should be expected to have the choice of deciding who to marry. Emma’s disapproval of men’s assumption that women should be ready for any man who asks her to marry him signifies her independence, and categorizes her as the character Austen wishes her

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