Emma by Jane Austen Essay

Emma by Jane Austen Essay

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About the Author

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 at Steventon, England. She was the seventh child of the rector of the parish at Steventon, and lived with her family until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801.

Her father, Reverend George Austen, was from Kent and attended the Tunbridge School before studying at Oxford and receiving a living as a rector at Steventon. Her mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen, was the daughter of a patrician family. Among her siblings she had but one sister, Cassandra, with whom she kept in close contact her entire life. Her brothers entered a variety of professions: several joined the clergy, one was a banker, while several more spent time in the military. Although her family was neither noble nor wealthy, Rev. Austen had a particular interest in education, even for his daughters. Although her novels focus on courtship and marriage, Jane Austen remained single her entire life. She died in Winchester on July 8, 1817.

Jane Austen published four novels anonymously during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815). Two novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in 1817. These novels are prominent for her satiric depiction of English society and manners.

Summary of Emma

Jane Austen's Emma is a novel of courtship. Like all of Austen's novels, it centres on the marriage plot: who will marry whom? For what reasons will they marry? Love, practicality, or necessity? At the centre of the story is the title character, Emma Woodhouse, an heiress who lives with her widowed father at their estate, Hartfield. At the beginning of the novel, she is a self-satisfied young woman who feels no particular need to marry, for she is in the rather unique condition of not needing a husband to supply her fortune.

At the beginning of the novel, Emma's governess, Miss Taylor, has just married Mr. Weston, a wealthy man who owns Randalls, a nearby estate. The Westons, the Woodhouses, and Mr. Knightley (who owns the estate Donwell Abbey) are at the top of Highbury society. Mr. Weston had been married earlier. When his previous wife died, he sent their one child (Frank Churchill) to be raised by her brother and his wife, for the now-wealthy Mr. Weston could not at that time provide for the boy.

Without Miss Taylor as a companion,...


... middle of paper ...


...e is unpopular in Highbury due to her poor manners and arrogance, but becomes good friends with Jane Fairfax. Her status in society rests only on the fact that her sister married very well. She refuses to treat others with the proper respect they are accorded, including even Mr. Knightley.


Mr. John Knightley - A tall, gentleman-like, clever man, respectable and reserved. Emma dislikes him somewhat for his severity and lack of patience. He is Knightley's brother and Woodhouse's son-in-law. He is married to Isabella, Emma's sister. They live in London and visit only occasionally. Mr. John Knightley is given to complaint and bad humour; his wife is submissive and devoted entirely to him.

Mrs. Goddard: The mistress of a Boarding school where girls might be sent to receive a little education. Her school was in high repute. One of her former students is Harriet Smith, who now assists Mrs. Goddard.

Miss Bates: The daughter of Mrs. Bates, she was neither young, married, handsome nor rich. She is a pitiable character with the worst predicament. She lacks all distinguishing traits such as intellect or cleverness, yet she was mostly happy and treated others with great goodwill.

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