Emma's Management of Harriet's Affairs in Jane Austen's Emma

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Emma's Management of Harriet's Affairs in Jane Austen's Emma

In this novel, Jane Austen uses the relationship between Emma and

Harriet to highlight the important issues. She uses Emma's management

of Harriet to do this. She creates contrast between Emma and Harriet,

she portrays Emma as beautiful and intelligent though we can still see

faults in her personality. The main fault is her desire to control

people and matchmake them. This also raises issues, including the

position of women and Emma's social status, marriage and comedy which

is shown through irony, especially in the relationship between Emma

and Harriet.

The first thing we read is 'Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and

rich'. By beginning the novel with this quote, we can see the

qualities considered important at that time and how Emma has a high

social status. When we first hear of Harriet, we can see a contrast

between the two characters. 'Harriet was the natural daughter of

somebody. Somebody had placed her several years back at Mrs Goddard's

school.' We see that Harriet is an orphan which automatically

contrasts with Emma's strong family history. The way Austen says

'natural daughter of somebody' suggests her unimportance and lack of

family history which was considered important in Austen's time. Also,

the way the word 'placed' is used makes her seem like an inanimate

object. The reader sees from the beginning that these two characters

are extremely different and therefore not a natural friendship. This

raises the theme of social class.

Another main theme in the novel is marriage. Emma's attitude to this

reveals Austen's thoughts. In Austen's time, marriage was ba...

... middle of paper ...

...In this quote we see how Emma is analysing and

planning to make Harriet her next project.

Austen expresses her views on women and marriage. There is a key quote

in the novel which I feel expresses Austen's feelings - 'Never mind,

Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid, and it is poverty only which

makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with

a very narrow income, must b a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! The

proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune,

is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody

else. And the distinction is not quite so much against the candour and

common sense of the world as appears at first.' Here Austen is saying

how stereotypical society was at that time, she is raising what she

feels were the key issues of her time.
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