Views of Marriage in Jane Austen's Emma

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Views of Marriage in Jane Austen's Emma

The dominant theme that constantly runs through this novel is that of

marriage. All of the important activities of the novel are focused

around various attempts from Emma, to arrange them, prevent them, or

hinder them; this idea is empathized in both chapter 1, where Emma

replies in discussion to Miss Taylor's marriage "I made up my mind on

the subject. I planned the match from that hour", and in chapter 7

when Emma is told by Harriet of Mr Martins proposal and uses clever

manipulation over Harriet to influence her rejecting decision: "You

think I ought to refuse him then?...Ought to refuse him! My dear

Harriet, what do you mean? Are you in doubt as to that?...I lay down a

general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she would

accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him". This in

itself instantly portrays the idea of Emma and her interfering nature

of marriages and relationships which is quite obviously going to

increase as the novel moves on.

The novel itself actually begins on the wedding-day of Miss Taylor to

Mr Weston; something significant in introducing the theme of marriage

to the novel early. This particular engagement is another one from

which as been set up by Emma. This marriage and idea of Emma loving

match-making being introduced so early in the novel brings a certain

impetus into the reading, and expands the readers imagination into how

and why the three major couplets; Knightley and Emma, Robert Martin

and Harriet and Frank Churchill could all end up being close. Other

than these major couplets, most of what happens in the novel is

generally to do with people proposing and being accepted or rejected,

marriage plans fall...

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the match making field.

Throughout the novel, Mr Knightley is the character that shrewdly

observes that Emma and her match making is more likely to do more harm

than good. With this in mind, there is an irony in what immediately

follows, as Emma declares her resolution to find a match for Mr Elton

the vicar. In this particular activity she will do even more harm to

herself than even Mr Knightley could foresee. Her attempts to match

Harriet and Mr Elton ends abruptly in chapter 15 after Mr Elton's

proposal of marriage to Emma, and results in a huge embarrassment from

Emma.

Overall therefore, throughout this novel, each chapter is vigorously

based upon marriage in one way or another, and in the whole is

attempting to represent the views and opinions of people in Jane

Austen's time, in particular in the light of gender, class and

material differences.
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