Emma by Jane Austen - Essay Example

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Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, seems like a fairly typical early nineteenth- century romance novel, but it is really much more literary than the modern day opinion about such romance novel often realizes…
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Emma by Jane Austen
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Download file to see previous pages The persistent gossiping that occurs throughout the novel is done not only by the female characters but also the male characters in the novel. Emma gossips, she manipulates, she interferes in other’s lives, and so do other characters, but what makes Emma stand out is that she also bullies Hetty Bates, all of which make her not a very likeable character, but, in the end, apparently redeemable. Pretty much everyone in the little community of Highbury gossips. They all, with good intentions it seems, try to orchestrate love connections and marriage matches. Their manipulations include gossiping and speculating about who does what in the community. Gossip for this parish seems like a pastime, much as it is in small communities all over the world yet today. Today, with the majority of people living in cities and unable to know enough about the other people in their community to effectively gossip, they watch shows that gossip about celebrities and politicians. This informs the citizenry about society even if sometimes it is inaccurate. Then it does damage to reputations, but just like in Austen’s time, that is not the concern of the gossiper. Gossipers want only to amuse themselves and demonstrate their prowess in having “the dirt” on someone else first. Privacy, it seems, has always been elusive. Austen uses the gossip in part as a literary device to characterize. The chatter among the characters, both men and women, serve to reveal facts that a limited omniscient narrator, such as the one who narrates Emma, would not necessarily know. That narrator does not reveal everything though, such as the opinion of others about Emma because the narrator only sees through Emma’s eyes, and she does not always perceive the way others see her or her condescension. A perfect example of this is in Chapter 26 when Emma attends the Coles’ party. During the party, much speculation is made about a pianoforte that arrived unexpectedly at the Bates residence for Miss Bates’ niece, Jane Fairfax. Emma and just about everyone else at the party, including Mr. Knightley, gossip and speculate about who may have sent the pianoforte. Whoever it is, they reason, must be in love with Jane Fairfax. The party at the Coles also serves as an efficient way for Austen to characterize. Emma, for instance, finds the Coles’ invitation to the party presumptuous. “The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them. This lesson, she very much feared, they would receive only from herself” (218). Yet she changes her mind and attends the party probably because the entire village planned to attend. Afterwards, “Emma did not repent her condescension in going to the Coles. The visit afforded her many pleasant recollections the next day; and all that she might be supposed to have lost on the side of dignified seclusion must be amply repaid in the splendour of popularity. She must have delighted the Coles—worthy people, who deserved to be made happy!—and left a name behind her which would not soon die away” (239). Of course, Emma’s attitude serves several functions: humor, characterization, and perhaps, more generally, a critique on a stratified society and/or on a community that would generate such trivial discourse. The party shows that the men in the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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