Emma: Emma and Emma Woodhouse Essay

Submitted By jesssandler
Words: 1453
Pages: 6

Women in Pairs

Born in the late eighteenth century, acclaimed author Jane Austen shocked the world of English literature with her six well-known novels all published within a span of seven years. Growing up in a closely-knit family, Austen was able to learn from her father and brothers in addition to teaching herself how to become a prominent writer. A very notable factor of Austen’s writing is the fact that she takes average eighteenth-nineteenth century women and makes them their own independent character that oftentimes strays outside of the social norms of that time period. Her last novel that was published during her lifetime, Emma, is about a twenty-one-year-old girl living in a small town outside of London with her father who is a very stubborn and unbending man. The main character, Emma Woodhouse, is not very interested in becoming a married woman—although it is expected of her to do so. In response to this idea, she spends her free time pairing up her female friends with eligible bachelors from all over the neighborhood. Emma takes after her father in the sense that she is extremely persistent, and only wishes to live her life in the way in which she pleases. One very evident aspect of Austen’s talent portrayed in Emma is the way that she uses certain women to serve as foils for one other, whether they comply to the standards of women from the given time period or not. For example, Harriet Smith, a student at Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school for women, and who was born to an illegitimate family, becomes the object of Emma’s matchmaking schemes. There are many men to which Emma tries to set Harriet up with, such as Mr. Elton—a very respectable man and close friend of the Woodhouse family—and Mr. Martin—a good-hearted man who cannot quite add up to become a proper gentleman. Harriet rejects Mr. Martin’s proposal for she fears that he is not the crowning man for her, and although she strongly presents her feelings towards Mr. Elton, he professes his love for Emma. Feeling rather uncomfortable, Emma responds to Mr. Elton by saying that she thought he would fit better with Harriet, and that she was not in fact looking for a husband at that time. Emma feared revealing the news regarding Mr. Elton’s proposal to Harriet, and worried “that poor Harriet would be suffering with the awkwardness of future meetings.” (Page 109) Later on in the novel, the reader finds out that Mr. Elton escapes the pain of having been rejected by Emma by leaving town for quite some time. Harriet, on the other hand, does not feel as distressed as Emma had anticipated, and although she takes the news pretty harshly, she soon occupies herself enough to where she can ignore the grief. In terms of women in pairs, Emma and Harriet’s characters serve as foils for one another because Emma tries to make Harriet everything she is not. Later on in the novel, many more characters are introduced. Mrs. Bates is an elderly woman who lives next door to the Woodhouse family with her unmarried middle-aged daughter, who goes by the title Miss Bates. They soon welcome Jane Fairfax into their home, the child of Mrs. Bates’ second daughter and the niece of Miss Bates. Jane arrives as a relatively ill young woman who only plans on residing in Highbury for a few short months. Emma cannot bring herself to enjoy Jane’s company simply because the attention is suddenly taken off of Emma and placed on Jane. In addition to Jane Fairfax, Mrs. Augusta Elton is brought into the novel as the sudden wife of Mr. Elton, who vacationed for a few weeks to help cope with Emma’s rejection of his proposal. Similarly to Jane, Mrs. Elton is a distasteful character in Emma’s eyes due to the fact that she becomes all too familiar with the scenery in which her new husband brings her to, and feels that she is much more important than she really is. Although it is obligatory that Emma be nice to everybody around her, she “would soon have shown no want of words, if the sound of Mrs. Elton’s…