Jane Austen's Emma

Jane Austen's Emma

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Jane Austen's Emma belongs to a period in English history known as the Regency (1811—1820). But as a literary figure writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Austen can be considered a descendant of the Age of Reason. It was a time of economic revolt, political unrest, and change. Marriage is a main theme in almost all of Jane Austen’s works and it is always shown in the woman’s point of view.
Marriage, in that time, is not about love but social standards. Lack of choice is one of the factors why woman married in Jane Austen’s time. Women didn’t have education. They learnt only basic responsibilities. Young girls were taught that they had to get married and have children when they get older. The education is received at home, the parents taught them about domestic duties only and it is how to become wives and nothing else. A woman was not expected to work unless she was poor and had no choice. If she didn’t married, she could work as a governess or a companion lady.
So as a result of a lack of education women have to find a husband to support them. These social and financial pressures results in women getting married. The parents used to search for a man that had a title and could advance the family social status. Marriages of daughters were used to secure family business deals, increase wealth and raise status. It was like if women were as objects that could be bought and sold. If a woman were engaged and break it off she would risk living the rest of her life as a spinster and lose social position.

Marriage was as complicated in that time as it is today. There were many social rules dictating how a wedding should happen and it was the ultimate goal of every young woman. By the time they were 18, marriage was a priority for them. There were a few rules involving marriage. For example, that marriage was encouraged to be with someone of the same class, or that a woman had to have a dowry that the family used to provide etc. Only a few marriages started with love. Emma has a dowry of £ 30,000. Of course she was an excellent match, that’s why Mr. Elton wanted to court her and why Emma considers the courtship an insult.

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She could look for a husband much richer. He had to find another bride. So money was always a very important consideration in any marriage, or the social order could not continue.
“Emma’s” story is centered on a lot of marriages. These marriages are defined according to the social standing of each character; an important factor is Austen’s time. In that time, the effect of social status on women is well presented in the novel, which were denied the opportunity of improving their position by hard work. On the contrary, the men were encouraged to become successful businessmen, so women hat to put their hopes on matrimony. Their charm and beauty were essential to get a “good” marriage, it is emphasized in “Emma”.

The first marriage in the novel is between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston; Emma and her father discuss it. Miss Taylor used to be their governess, so the weeding is deemed as “a sorrow” to the Woodhouse family. Mr. Woodhouse who doesn’t like changes, says “ what a pity that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!” showing that he does not approve the union.

As a “match-maker”, she tries to put together coupes based only that they are single, ignoring the social “rules”. An example is the attempt to join Harriet, “daughter” of no-one in particular” and Mr. Elton, “standard of perfection in all Highbury”. But the difference between Mrs. Elton and Harriet Smith teaches Emma an important lesson that helps her to grow. She understands that matrimony is relationate to social status, and she is able to accept that beauty and character can exist without influence by a low position in life.

We realize that even before Emma met Frank Churchill she already imagines that he is a perfect candidate to her husband vacancy, because of what she heard from the people of the town. Marriage was a planned move in Austen’s time, it meant to increase wealth and to grow the social standard. Status was very important to her. That’s why Emma was so interested in what people think of. She is guided by practice not by her heart.

More than romance, marriage is meant to give security. Mr. Kinghtley describes one of the fundaments of a good marriage: "'A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.” (Chapter 49, pg. 393)
The progression from Jane Austen’s marriage to modern marriage was a slow process. Women began to work more outside of the houses and during the war had to take care of the jobs that their husbands had left when they went to war. Women today have a lot more control in their marriages than they used to. The freedom to marriage who they want is the most part. She can choose to be married as well as have a career. Society does not have control in the lives of married couples as it had in the past time. People have choices and the society have to accept their choices. Women are now free to choose any profession they want and they are becoming highly educated and respectable.

Women nowadays marry for different reasons than the women in the Austen’s period. Women seem to marry now for love and physical attraction. It appears that women “Emma’s” time had to fall in love with men that their parents choose for financial or social reasons. A woman these days do not have to be married at a very young age. The institution of marriage will continue to change. The world is different than it was during the Reason period and marriage is not the same. Women have taken control on their life as should be.
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