Essay About Love and Despair in Jane Austen's Emma

Satisfactory Essays
Emma - Love and Despair

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.
Get Access