Jane Austen's Emma

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Jane Austen's Emma

Jane Austen does indeed present a picture of a community who look to

each other for entertainment as well as support, and are content with

their limited outlook. The story never leaves the close surroundings

of Highbury and there is no desire to do so. When the party goes to

Box Hill, away from Highbury, there is tension and the trip is not

enjoyed. It is interesting to note that the three characters that come

into Highbury, are those which have the potential to ruin the tight

community; Mrs Elton and her ‘vulgar…self-important, presuming,

familiar… manner’, and the deception of Jane Fairfax and Frank

Churchill’s secret engagement.

The community in Highbury are very close and everyone knows each

other’s business. This is represented through the amount of gossiping

that occurs throughout Austen’s novel. Even small matters, for example

the mystery of Perry’s carriage is discussed with great enthusiasm,

‘…and she mentioned it to her in confidence, she had no objection to

her telling us, of course…’

Gossiping demonstrates the topics that enthral the community in

Highbury are certainly limited in outlook. They are interested in the

happenings of their world, and this is the most important thing. With

gossip being spread quickly, it is clear why neither Jane Fairfax nor

Frank Churchill told anyone of their engagement, which they wanted to

remain private. To a modern reader, this is trivial, but a reader in

the eighteenth century would understand the harm that this deception

could have caused, had it not been in a satirical novel. The society

that Austen has created depends on trust and functions

interdependently, which fits in with the view of an inward-looking

community. This is w...

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... very pretty young man to be

sure, and a very good young man…great regard for him’. Here, Austen

reflects one of the many good attributes that knightly has; that he

can see past status.

I think that in Emma Jane Austen does present an inward looking

community, limited in outlook to a certain extent. If you look at

Emma’s society as a microcosm of eighteenth Century society as a

whole, which had a strict class etiquette, then this opinion is true.

However it also represents hope for the ignorance of this etiquette

because the reader sees Emma on her journey of self discovery and

realisation of man’s worth. Nonetheless, the community are not all

inward looking as they regard others of a lower class with respect.

With this respect comes a close community, who believes Highbury to be

the beginning and end of their lives which makes them limited in

outlook.

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