In Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen has created a wonderfully flawed heroine. Had Emma been perfect, her situation would have been of no interest to anyone; her flaws are what interest both reader and critic. Peter W. Graham is interested particularly with the first page of the novel where Emma is first introduced to the reader. He discusses how significant the beginning of the novel is to mapping out "Emma's personal development"(42). Walton A. Litz and Patricia Meyer Spacks are much more interested in what Emma's imagination shows about her development. Litz says that "[t]he basic movement of Emma is from delusion to self-recognition, from illusion to reality"(369). Spacks takes the opposite argument suggesting Emma doesn't grow but is simply alleviated of her boredom and her imagination disappears with it. I think Emma's growth throughout the novel is pronounced; she starts out loveable enough but with much to learn. She grows from self-delusion to self-awareness and learns to see truth and not just what she wants to see. She also grows in her social vision, although not as much as one may hope. All in all Emma makes significant developments and it is easy to imagine that with more time and Mr. Knightley's influence she will only continue learning and growing.
At the beginning of the novel we are made very aware of Emma's character, both her strengths and her flaws. She starts out, "seem[ing] to unite some of the best blessings in existence"(Austen, 1; Italics, Graham). Her flaws are "at present so unperceived that they d[o] not by any means rank as misfortunes with her" (1) but instead of seeming a fortunate thing Peter W. Graham states that "by naming what Emma has hitherto avo...
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...ce we are never told.
All in all Emma makes great strides in her development and there is no section of her life in which she doesn't improve in part. Having come this far already and with Knightley's continued guidance we can only imagine Emma continuing to learn and grow. As we have already seen in her role as daughter, she has been tested and not been found wanting. This definitely bodes well for any tests remaining in Emma's future.
Austen, Jane. Emma. 1972. Norton Critical ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company,1993
Graham, Peter W. "Emma's Three Sisters" Arizona Quarterly vol 43 no.1 (1987): 39-52
Litz, A. Walton. "Limits of Freedom: Emma" Emma. 1972. Norton Critical ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993, 369-377
Spacks, Patricia Meyer. "Women & Boredom: The Two Emmas" Yale Journal of Criticism vol.2 no. 2 (1989): 191-205
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