It is debatable whether family relationships are central to the novel
‘Emma’ and are indeed the foundations on which Highbury is built.
Families may be viewed as objects of satire, as those featured are a
source of financial rather than emotional support. Throughout the
novel, status is built upon class position, material possession and
finance, its characters eager to display such ‘qualities’. This essay
shall demonstrate the emphasis placed upon wealth and social status,
identify and interpret corresponding family units, as well as explore
the use of match-making and marital agreements.
The large proportion of families, contradict the perception that
family relationships are the core of the novel and the foundations of
Highbury life. For, families featured are predominantly broken or
incomplete. The Woodhouses’ are one of the more prominent examples of
rich yet emotionally lacking families in Highbury. For, the
relationship between Emma and her father involves constant humouring
on Emma’s part. Mr Woodhouse is an example of Austen’s use of
exaggerated and satirical humour in order to emphasise the
inadequacies of many families and individual members. With the death
of Emma’s mother, a governess Ms Taylor acts as a replacement and the
only source of emotional dependence for Emma. However, in light of Ms
Taylor’s marriage to Mr Weston, it can be said that the clear source
of family support and intimacy is removed, deepening the instability
of the Woodhouse family at Hartfield. The absence of strong family
relationships with regards to the Woodhouse’s, reinforce ideas that
relationships are not at the core of society.
The relationship between Mr Weston and his son Frank Churchill...
... middle of paper ...
...or financial motives. Austen therefore suggests that
many choices were made even though husband and wife did not even
respect each other and indicate the impact of money in society.
Although socially appropriate marriages, according to status are still
apparent by the end of the novel, some superficiality associated with
characters ceases to continue. In particular, Emma with regards to
initial match-making schemes and the initial narrow minded views that
she possesses. Emma and Mr Knightly, Harriet with Mr Martin and Jane
with Frank Churchill contradict the frequent number of marriages based
upon the wrong reasons in the 18th century. There is hope therefore;
that the new families created would have valued the importance of
family relationships to therefore change the foundations of Highbury,
so that they would have indeed become central to the society.
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