The Conflicting Gender Values of Jane Austen’s Emma
On the surface, Jane Austen’s Emma reads as a simple account of its protagonist Emma Woodhouse’s emotional development. Through the course of the novel, Emma comes to realize the folly of her arrogance and cluelessness. Emma’s realization of her shortcomings allows her to correct her reprehensible thoughts and opinions and attain humility as a result. Whereas Emma displays an assortment of protofeminist beliefs at the onset of the novel, her pseudo-maturation causes her to forego these beliefs in order to acclimate to the society she resides in. Despite being the most affluent and respectable woman in Highbury, Emma experiences both empowerment and oppression during her maturation. Her unique position sheds light upon the novel’s conflicting opinion towards gender, specifically on matters such as empowerment, sovereignty, and individuality.
Although Emma is the de facto head of Hartfield on behalf of her hypochondriac father, she exercises significantly less power in the greater world of Highbury. In an attempt to influence the world within her reach, Emma continuously engages in matchmaking throughout the novel. Her hobby is promptly contested by none other than Mr. Knightley himself, who calls her match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston a “lucky guess” of “idle” thoughts and hopes (Austen 14). Emma responds:
“… a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it. And as to my poor word ‘success,’ which you quarrel with, I do not know that I am so entirely without any claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures–but I think there may be a third–a something between the do-nothing and the do-all” (Austen 14).
Although Emma concedes the possibility that the marriage may not have been entirely due to her actions, she adamantly argues that her efforts cumulated in a tangible contribution nevertheless. By devising and promoting matches that may sometimes be singularly visible to herself only, Emma attempts to break free from tradition, which confines women within their domestic spheres. Thus, Emma’s matchmaking is a progressive attempt of female self-empowerment.
This tale of self-empowerment may cast Emma in a protofeminist light, but a closer examination of matchmaking and its effect on the greater group of women shows that it has a retrograde silver lining. Emma’s matches are made without the will of the men or women involved taken into account. Furthermore, her matches are specifically intended to benefit herself. To keep her friend Harriet Smith “within the sphere in which she moves” (Austen 60), Emma encourages her to reject Mr. Martin’s marriage proposal. Emma’s obvious support of the preestablished social hierarchy is observable here when she explains that she “could not have visited Mr. Robert Martin, of Abbey-Mill Farm” (Austen 52) due to her social class. Emma’s inability to consider the prospects of associating with a family considered to be as socially inferior as the Martins trumps even the close friendship that she shares with Harriet. Thus, she deprives Harriet of the ability to choose her husband and delays her settlement into a marriage considered “safe, respectable, and happy” for her (Austen 63). Whereas matchmaking is a means of empowerment for Emma, it is also a means of disenfranchisement on the women it targets.
Emma’s privilege allows her to take up the potentially reprehensible action of matchmaking. However, it does not exempt her from the expectation of marriage. Matrimony is arguably the most significant pursuit that a woman in Victorian England can make as it cements her place in society as a respectable and established woman regardless of whether she chooses to marry within or outside of her rank in society. Miss Taylor’s marriage does not spare her from the duty of pleasing an employer or husband, but she is nevertheless congratulated by “every friend” as she is now “settled in a home of her own” and “secure of a comfortable provision” (Austen 13). Thus, the expectation and appreciation of marriage in Highbury continues to largely restrict the vocational sovereignty of its women.
While marriage presents itself as a universal requirement for women, the characters Emma Woodhouse and Jane Fairfax demonstrate the emergence of alternate options. Emma’s initial stance towards marriage questions the necessity of marriage and rejects the notion as a whole. As a notable character with “none of the usual inducements of women to marry,” (Austen 82), Emma makes it clear that her marriage will be a conscious choice in the event of love rather than in compliance with societal expectations. In comparison, Jane’s predicament is a product of the other extreme. Given little but a “very few hundred pounds,” Jane’s penury makes independence á la Emma impossible. She is instead expected to supply a personal means of “respectable subsistence” by occupying a position as a governess. Whereas employment is seen as an ignominy and a fall from respect for accomplished young women, the mere establishment of jobs for women paves the way towards their entry into the greater parts of society. The excess possession of wealth or lack thereof creates newfound forms of sovereignty for the women of the novel, who are able to not only renounce marriage but also find a means to support themselves without it.
Ascribing to the Victorian ideals of civility and propriety, the women of Highbury are encouraged to cultivate a variety of qualities that are considered desirable for women. These mannerisms and skills are solely acquired through diligence and devotion and are therefore expected from all of the female characters of the novel. Emma’s comparatively superior status does not exempt her from this expectation but conversely holds her to a higher standard to attain these characteristics as they are considered the marks of the accomplished, civilized woman. This appreciation is most clearly portrayed in the novel’s depiction and introduction of Jane Fairfax. Having acquired a “decided superiority” in her acquirements, Jane’s proficiency at playing the pianoforte and her reserved personality cause her to be considered as a “very elegant, remarkably elegant” young woman who is respected regardless of her worldly endowment. Her cultivation of these talents has a twofold effect; while it enforces the stereotype of the meek, domestic, yet intelligent woman, it also allows her to catch the eye of Frank Churchill, who appreciates her enough to the point of marrying her. Thus, Jane’s cultivation of her “feminine” qualities has a paradoxical effect. Whereas her accomplishments and ensuing respect reinforce a certain set of expectations for women, they are the very qualities that stress her individuality and save her from her barren predicament through the prospect of matrimony.
The depiction of gender in Emma possesses both progressive and conservative elements that can be observed in three main points of contention. The act of matchmaking can be viewed as the empowerment of an individual, it occurs at the expense of the individual’s closest peers. The societal expectation of marriage in the novel can be viewed as a stifling and unyielding mark of submission but serves to illustrate that women are beginning to vie for their sovereignty by circumventing this requirement. While the attainment of traditionally feminine qualities perpetuates a conventional stereotype of the “perfect” woman, it allows the women to cultivate their skills and differentiate themselves from others by doing so. Although the novel does not espouse a clear message on gender, it nevertheless conveys an emerging rift between expectation and reality.
Emma’s Trial and Error and the Characteristics of the Victorian Era
Though the protagonist, Emma, had distake towards marriage for herself, she attempted matching characters together to find out through jealousy that she was in love. Throughout the novel Emma attempts to match many couples. Mr. Weston and the governess but Miss Churchill came from a wealthy and tight knit family whereas Mr. Weston did not. Harriet and Mr. Elton failed because Harriet’s parents were unknown and Mr. Elton was infatuated with Emma. Emma did not want Harriet to marry Mr. Martin because she thinks Harriet is socially above him however, Harriet accepts his second proposal and they’re the first to get married. Emma had no idea that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill were engaged, Mr. Knightely was the first to have suspicion. When Harriet exclaimed to Emma that she had feelings for Mr. Knightley, it made Emma realize that she’s loved him ever since she was a child. After Emma reluctantly made everyone assume she would never marry, she ends up marrying Mr. Knightley.
Austen’s life in England as a novelist during the Victorian period; marriage, financial stability, social status, change and courtship helped create the theme of Emma, marriage and matchmaking. Jane Austen was an English Novelist from England. She and her eight siblings, her being one of the two girls, were parented by George and Cassandra Austen. Austen had a very tight knit and caring family, “Her family’s support led not only to her education, but her success as a writer” (‘Austen, Jane.’ 2009). The family grew up in an environment that emphasizes learning and creative thinking. Her father, George, had a library where she and her siblings would read his books and perform plays and charades. In Emma, Jane used charades in a way on enjoyment, “They owed to him their two or three politest puzzles; and the joy and exultation with which at last he recalled, and rather sentimentally recited, that well-known charade — My first doth affliction denote, Which my second is destin’d to feel, And my whole is the best antidote That addiction to soften and heal — made her quite sorry to acknowledge that they had transcribed it some pages ago already” (Austen 59). Throughout her childhood, Jane got close to her father, George, and her sister, Cassandra. She and Cassandra went to a boarding school to better their education but their time fell short by getting Typhus. Jane started writing novels as a young girl in her notebooks. Jane spent most of her childhood keeping the house in order, practicing piano, attending church, sewing, drawing and socializing.
While growing up in revolutions, Austen didn’t put much of the world into her work. Jane Austen had a unique way of writing. She didn’t put much of the real world that was surrounding her into her novel. During the time period where Austen grew up, “Austen was born just one year before the beginning of the American Revolution, an event of momentous importance in British and world history. She was a teenager when the French Revolution began, and must certainly have followed the anti-aristocratic actions of the French revolutionaries with interest and concern” (‘Austen, Jane.’ 2009).
Emma believes that men are superior to women. In the eighteenth century, a woman’s role in society was completely dependent upon a man for financial support. The complete opposite of how Jane wrote Emma. According to a biography of Jane Austen, “Austen fell in love with Tom Lefroy, a neighbor’s nephew, when she was twenty-one years old. However, the romance was not to be — his family did not like the match, and he was sent away from the neighborhood” (‘Austen, Jane.’ 2009). Jane brought her one-night love story into her novel. No matter how much you love a person, the marriage will not succeed when the couple isn’t equal financially and socially. In the eighteen hundreds when Emma was written, marriage was key. A man would ask a woman to marry them. “‘Oh, to be sure,’ cried Emma, ‘it is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her’” (Austen 50). Women were supposed to be ready for marriage whenever asked. Most women would accept because of their social status. “Upper-class women in England were entirely legally dependent on their male relatives for financial support, and they were expected to marry well and be dutiful wives and mothers” (‘Austen, Jane.’ 2009). Growing up in a wealthy family, you’re expected to marry wealthy. Although having one situation in the book where Jane Fairfax and Frank Chuchill were together. “Her heroines tend to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles in their determination to marry for love instead of money or social status, though the material pleasures of a comfortable living are never ignored” (‘Austen, Jane.’ 2009). They kept their engagement a secret because his aunt, who was wealthy, would disapprove. They had to wait to get married until she passed on.
One of the major characteristics of the Victorian era is change. Change is something that happens throughout the novel and throughout Jane’s life. According to The Literature Network’s article on the Victorian era, “If there is one transcending aspect to Victorian England life and society, that aspect is change – or, more accurately, upheaval” (“Victorian Literature.”). When Jane was young, her father passed on. She had to learn to live without one of her best friends. In the book, “Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses, and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection” (Emma 1). Emma didn’t seem to remember having her mother around but she did have the governess. Once her governess [Miss Taylor] got married and turned into Mrs. Weston, she had to learn to adapt to the new change.
Another characteristic is courtship. Courtship is a point of time in a person’s relationship where they want to move forward, for example, marriage. Courtship should be simple and come naturally. In the novel, courtship never flows naturally. “The first error, and the worst, lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious — a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more” (Emma 111). Emma tries to force relationships together, which unintentionally tears them apart. Relationships are supposed to come naturally, that’s why Emma feels guilty and ashamed for forcing two together. According to Deanna Kreisel who wrote a criticism article on Jane Austen’s marriage plots, “The binding of this energy takes place through acts of repetition, return, and delay: for example, cases of mistaken identity or misunderstandings that are repeated before they can be cleared up — or even misguided attempts at matchmaking that must fail miserably before the proper marriages can come to pass” (Kreisel 2007). Finding the right person to marry takes time. A marriage shouldn’t be forced upon you by a woman who doesn’t believe in marriage for herself.
Industrialization is another key component, another aspect of change to the Victorian era. In the eighteenth century, there were growing railroads and waterways. In the novel, “I have no doubt of it’s being our carriage with Miss Bates and Jane. Our coachman and horses are extremely expeditious! I believe we drive faster than anybody. What a pleasure it is to send one’s carriage for a friend” (Austen 254). In Hartfield, where the novel takes place, they aren’t up to date with the society. They live in a tight knit town where everybody knows everyone’s business. Mr. Elton, who was from the city, came to Hartfield. He knows the difference between the city and the suburbs. He brings industrialization into the novel.
Emma had many trial and errors with matchmaking. Some were made for eachother and some not. Growing up in a society where social status and financial stability was a deal breaker for a marriage, Jane Austen included much of that into her novel. The theme of Emma is no matter how long Emma told herself she would never get married, there was a change of heart where she realized she was in love and got married when she said she never would. This action applies to every human being. Don’t say you’re not going to do something because you honestly never know what life will throw at you.
The Narrative Structure of Jane Austen’s Novel Emma
As readers, the form of novels can be presented in different ways, authors like Jane Austen explore ideas in novels like Emma through its Narrative structure. The term “narrative” can be defined as “A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.” Thus, the credibility and accuracy of the events can be questioned depending on how reliable the narrator is. It can be difficult to grasp a novel in its entirety and the events that take place within a novel when “the flow is interrupted, and we are led off in unexpected directions” which can be seen through Emma woodhouse, the protagonist of the novel, interestingly the narrator too. The narrative in Emma takes place in third person. Acknowledging the novel being written in third person is crucial in attempting to understand the novel in its entirety. The characters voices become the centre of implications and meanings that are conveyed in the novel. Austen allows readers to be part of the character’s thought processes and have authority in gaining their own judgement on the text. Moreover, readers are immediately introduced to an omniscient narrator when Emma recounts information on her family and background. “Emma woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition.” The narrator communicates purposefully to the reader whilst taking readers on a journey with her through her own experiences and narration. This establishes the growing relationship between the narrator and readers. Indeed, the narrative can be seen to be heterodiegetic as Emma does not involve herself much in the plot but does recount the events that take place within the novel, she often misses crucial parts of information which may be a reason why readers do not find the story as credible and must fill in gaps left by the text themselves.
Jane Austen successfully adopts a technique known as free indirect discourse which wasn’t a common literary technique used often in the early nineteenth century, when Emma had been written. John Mullan discovers the narrative style and purpose Austen adopts in Emma through understanding Austen’s Novel Sense and sensibility. He asserts in his analysis of Sense and sensibility “The narrative when it’s being most judicious and judgemental is not reflecting Jane Austen’s point of view so much as reflecting Elinor’s point of view of what’s going on.” This can be resonated with Emma and give readers a deeper understanding of the text. Whilst Austen’s views are obscured throughout her novel, she allows readers to “establish connections” and fill in the gaps through the characters and judgements made by them throughout the novel. However, since the reader’s experience is predominately based off the narrator’s, it results in readers sharing the misconceptions and misunderstandings of the narrator’s misjudgements. Whist Emma holds an authoritative position in being narrator, her recount of events is immensely flawed. F.K Stanzel highlights the problems with perspective in A Theory on Narrative when Stanzel depicts interpretation can be difficult when an internal perspective (the characters in Emma) and external perspective (Emma’s narration) are prevalent in the same works. It makes it difficult for readers to decide whether “a certain passage exhibits the internal perspective of a fictional character or the external perspective of an authorial narrator” Though there is some substance here, Stanzel dismisses the narrative technique Austen employs perhaps intentionally, to allows readers to gain judgements based on the novel itself individually. Whilst other authors of novels implore readers to gain their view through their respected novels, Austen’s views are obscured, and she almost liberates her readers whilst giving them complete freedom to gain a judgement from her novel themselves. Now relating back to the Iser’s view that “it is only through inevitable omissions that a story will gain its dynamism” when we consider its meaning to be: through (unintentional) excluded events or excluded parts of the narration, the novel can gain characterisation through the continuous change and progress the novel makes. Iser’s view contrasts Stanzel’s of that which he asserts the exclusion and unclear perspective is what makes the novel interesting which is a far greater analysis on Austen’s narrative technique. Austen subtly employs an interactive approach with readers through the exclusion of events which allows readers to fill in the gaps themselves, which does ultimately add to the novel’s dynamism.
At a time, in the nineteenth century when epistolary form was incredibly popular and rendered multiple narrative perspectives, it still had limitations which Austen’s free indirect discourse didn’t. She was able to explore her narrative technique and venture out of what was viewed as the typical structure of a novel in the early nineteenth century. Stephanie Chen assesses the extent of how powerful Austen’s narrative technique was in Austen’s Narrative Perspective when she claims Austen’s novel Emma “allows readers to reassess their own process of judgement, and experience a more complex, conflicted world without straightforward answers – a fictional experience with further applications in reality.” Ironically, for a fictional tale it seems as though there is aspects of the novel that can resonate with reality, whilst it can fantasise hugely on certain aspects like romance, social status and imagination, it does teach readers through the narrative structure to not to always rely on straightforward answers in novels, but rather use their own judgement intuitively to gather a more holistic and accurate depiction of something. Certainly, this can be applied to real life experiences in the same manner. Free indirect discourse can be seen in the novel through Emma’s perspective when introduced to new characters. The narrator first describes Harriet in chapter 3 when Emma describes Harriet as “a pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired” giving readers a first-hand experience into Emma’s opinion of Harriet, enclosed through the narrative she adopts. Emma follows on to state “she was short, plump and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness” the descriptive language Emma implements gives readers an insight into Emma’s initial opinion on characters. Helen Dry asserts whilst Austen may hint at literary subtleties in Emma’s description “it stays conventional in syntax [and is] reportorial in tone” thus fulfilling her narrative role. Chen explains “Emma demonstrates how narrated perception can offer both subjective and objective perspectives” which can be gathered when Emma meets Jane Fairfax for the first time. Emma again uses syntax when she describes Jane as “the worst of all, so cold, so cautious!” Whilst the narrator attempts to objectively present Miss Fairfax as a reserved person the syntax presents Emma’s subjective perspective on her view of Jane. Austen explores the same effect when Emma described Harriet for the first time through a use of a list and syntax. Through Emma’s narration, it is evident she likes to make judgements about people on her own accord and can disregard the views of others. Later in the novel, Emma defends miss Fairfax’s complexion when it is criticised by someone else for looking “ill” and so “pale”. She soon comes to her defence “It was certainly never brilliant but… there was a softness and delicacy in her skin which gave peculiar elegance to the character of the face” The response raises questions on the accuracy of Emma’s perception as someone else contradicts it. As readers we are unable to truly know which view the closest account of the truth is as we mainly experience events and judgements from Emma’s perspective. This may be an instance where readers are “lead off in unexpected directions” and eventually make the conclusions for themselves to judge the most accurate narration. Through a contradicting viewpoint from another character in the novel, readers may be able to bring themselves back to their own “faculty [to] establish connections” in the novel.
When relating to bigger themes revealed in the novel, readers can be limited to Emma’s perspective as a narrator which can hinder reader’s perceptions of social reality. The understanding of marriage, social hierarchy, money and many other themes as well as institutions in society is restricted to one person’s viewpoint, which happens to be Emma’s. Indeed, one person’s perspective does not give a holistic depiction of society. Readers may doubt Emma as a narrator due to her irresponsible nature Austen presents throughout the whole novel, one instance for example, when she meddles in relationships that does not concern her. Emma becomes obsessed with the idea of matchmaking which ultimately gets her into trouble. However, through the theme of marriage explored in the novel, readers can try and acquire an understanding of Austen’s life and her experience of marriage. Although her views on marriage were not made explicit in the novel, Emma’s view on marriage can be resonated with Austen’s. Emma did not perceive Harriet and Mr Martin as equals from their status of wealth and social hierarchy but understood marriage can promote many financial benefits for a woman, A view Austen exercised mutually. Researching into Austen’s personal life, it became prevalent Austen was reluctant to marry a person who was not financially stable to wed. Perhaps she was not interested in marriage if a man couldn’t benefit her financially. Readers then, can mirror Emma’s view on marriage with Austen’s when Emma asses the financial benefits Harriet may gain from marrying Mr Martin. Although this is merely readers attempting to “fill in the gaps” contextually, and could be inaccurate, it still adds to the characterisation of the novel as well as its dynamism. As a narrator, Emma’s morality can be questioned through her meddling between character’s relationships. To readers, it seems Emma is simply looking out for her friend Harriet but readers soon discover Emma’s own self-interest in meddling between the pair, Emma wishes a marriage to take place between Mr Martin and Harriet for the reason that Harriet’s social status would be elevated through the marriage and in turn would become a more “Suitable companion for Emma.” This omits the Biblical view of marriage, where the purpose of it was to procreate and to love, a view that was affirmed by society at the time. When considering this, readers can understand the flaws in Emma’s narration. She presents a naïve and biased perception of society, whilst misrepresenting society to her own views exclusively. A prime example of why no tale, at least for Emma, “can be told in its entirety”.
The biggest flaw in Emma’s narration which has been argued, is her constant misinterpreting and misperceptions of situations which ultimately make her an unreliable narrator. Her misunderstanding is evident when she entertains Frank flirting with her but has no plan in committing herself in a relationship with him. In chapter 13 Emma exclaims “They say everybody is in love once in their lives” relating to her thoughts on Frank, However, she’s unaware of how strongly he feels for her and does not hold any real mutual feelings towards him to return the deep love he has for her. She is merely being naïve and barely knows what love is. In addition, she misinterprets Harriet when she says he loves a man who is of a higher social rank than her, assuming it’s Frank, when it was Mr knightly Harriet refers to, she then enters herself into a cycle of chaos with misinterpretations. Even when characters attempt to clear the confusion for her she remains in denial. After Franks aunt dies, Jane and Frank confess their love for each other, Emma continues to believe Harriet loves frank until Harriet unfolds her true feelings to Mr Knightley. Austen restores much of the chaos at the end when character’s true feelings surface and the secrets have been cleared. Austen allows readers to depict the extent, and perhaps consequences of chaos that is caused from misinterpretation and secrets feasibly to hint at what the readers perception should be of Emma as a narrator. In contrary, whilst the novel has been criticised to be filled with inaccurate events and misleading ideas about society through Emma’s narration, it has been stated “it is thus a brave reader who ignores the persistent depiction of characters misreading situations, conversations, and even themselves, in order to arrive at a ‘correct’ interpretation of the novel” thus, suggesting the misreading’s are insignificant in understanding the novel in it’s entirety. The famous saying “beauty lies in the eyes of its beholder” can be used to understand Emma. Various aspects of the novel can be appreciated differently by readers. “Whilst some readers might enjoy the riddles and word games, others will be more interested in the comedy of manners, the psychological insights or the romantic plot.” Austen does not present one singular “correct” interpretation of the novel, she encourages readers to make their own judgements and fill in the gaps of the novel independently. Laurence Sterne remarks in Tristram Shandy, If the reader was given the whole story, it would evoke boredom in readers as everything is essentially “laid out cut and dried before” readers. Sterne argues that a literary text must be presented in a way which will “engage readers imagination in the task of working things out” to which Virginia wolf supports in her analysis of Jane Austen “She stimulates [readers] to supply what is not there” Austen ultimately uses the narration to present something that “expands in the readers mind” Both Woolf and Sterne credit Austen for her narrative technique in engaging readers to establish connections in the novel and fill in the gaps left in the text itself. Therefore, Iser’s view in a phenomenological approach assessing “a novel will gain its dynamism through inevitable omissions” can be perceived as a superior analysis of the narrative technique Austen employs in Emma. Austen’s “faults” in her narrative are merely intentional, thus it is the brave readers who look beyond the surfaced faults and misunderstandings of Emma as a narrator to discover a deeper and more superior understanding of the novel, and the narrative technique employed in Emma. These are the readers who, instead of being lazy readers that want the answers written out for them, fill in the “gaps left by the text itself”, as Iser assesses.
Room by Emma Donoghue. Hermeneutic Interpretation
Exegesis: Signification Processes in Room
The “other” co-creates our physiological life which, in result, is used through signified practices. From the material discussed in class, signifiers are known as any gesture, word, or various image that give significance to a deeper meaning if we so choose take them into consideration. Signifiers play a role in shaping how we interpret different events that happen within our lifetime. Writing is mediated, which means we must interpret it to have a better understanding.
The ability to discover significance through the signified content is know as hermeneutic interpretation. Hermeneutic interpretation involves removing your own ideology out of the way so that there is a sense of selflessness. The definition of hermeneutics can also be better understood as the ability to cross over between self and other through the use of interpretation, translation, and inseparable.
Jack’s identity inside the room can be said as curious, abstract, and rather outside the box in many ways because it is a difference of norms. When analyzing who self is in relation to other, it’s clear that Jack uses hermeneutics with Ma because she is all he has known since birth. This occurs when Ma and Jack are inseparable in room. Ma has to take it upon herself to teach Jack how to speak and learn basic functions when she uses hermeneutics to understand Jack- he sees the world from a different viewpoint than she does. In the book, Jack is in harmony with the room in regards to having the questioning to distinguish the real from the fake in his mind along with what Ma tells him. With the above observations in mind, it can be determine that the point of view of the book Room is “inside the boy’s head”. (Intrapersonal: occurring within the individual mind or self) from the signified content of Jack.
Jack views his bed to be a trampoline throughout the text. This understanding shows that Jack is pragmatic and shows how he uses the room and all the elements that make up the room to learn various phenomena. Ma is the only person who provides Jack with a sense of comfort and this is significant because they begin to make objects in the room have signified content beyond the structural meanings. A signifier of this is “Meltedy spoon”, and can be interpreted multiple ways in the sense that is is an interrogation of ourselves. “Ma doesn’t like Meltedy Spoon but he’s my favorite because he’s not the same” (Donoghue) “Meltedy spoon” is also significant when Jack is no longer in the room because he feels like he’s not the same as everyone else outside of Room. Ma allows Jack to watch television while in the room but she teaches Jack that some things are real and some are just tv. “Vegetables are real but ice cream is on TV” (Donoghue). This signified content is significant because it shows how Jack’s life as he was growing up has been about what is actually available to him. This signifier shows survival and abuse because Jack has never been able to have ice cream. This play of signifiers is also of significance because Jack is not sure whether he is real or the people on TV are real. Jack only knows the eleven feet by eleven feet space that Ma and him live in twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Jack also questions other things that seem to be common sense outside of the room. For example, in the beginning of the book it’s Jack’s birthday, “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. ‘Was I minus numbers?’” (Donoghue).
Ma is really in a tough situation with all of the elements and restraints that she is forced to abide by with jack in the room. She has done an incredible job with how she adapts from struggling through a tough life to the transition of meeting Old Nick and raising Jack in such a remote and secluded space. Ma is forced to become someone else than she had previously been. The women that she became outside of the room is radically different. Not only that, but once when she gets out of the room she makes a suicide attempt. While in the room Ma looks to religion to bless Jack and herself with freedom from the confinement they are currently dealing with. The confinement of living was so difficult to raise Jack in, so she decided that she was going to push the idea of prayer into Jack’s life. Ma ultimately wanted to give Jack a sense of hope as well as have him recognize and be grateful for what he does have.
On page 36 of the book the dialogue states “OK OK can I have a slice?” The boy recognizes sarcasm based on “twisty Old Nick’s voice.” Ma’s relationship with old Nick is threatening because she has been raped and abused in the past and that’s how Jack came to be. On page 103, the term “rug” is put under erasure in the passage that talks about the giant bulldozer. The rug itself is beyond just the rug just like the trampoline. Ma does it to protect Jack’s physical and mental health.
On page 128, when Ma is trying to explain to Jack that they need to escape. Ma says, “’No Jack please.’ Jack says, ‘I’m too scared… I won’t do it… not ever and I hate you.’ Ma’s breathing funny, she sits down on the Floor. ‘That’s all right’ Ma responds and Jack thinks to himself how can it be alright if I hate her.’” (Donoghue). This shows the attachment and the struggle of the idea of dividing with Ma. This is different than other cases because he can hate but still love because of the connection he has with Ma. Ma uses him as he lacks the ability to fathom reality. On page 138 Jack says, “I’m not in room am I still me.” This example shows how Jack is not psychologically formed and off to see why he needs to escape. These are all developmental problems that he had developed over time because of being in the room.
Jack has a tendency when he is outside the room to experience night terrors that involve the teeth. When he was inside the room he gets a look at Ma’s tooth breaking in front of him. After looking further into this matter, and comparing my opinions with others’ (http://roomdounghuepotvin.weebly.com/personal-reflection.html, February, 24, 2015) the idea of having bad dreams about teeth portray jack to be rather in a struggle with his life. Jack keeps the broken tooth of his Ma that he stored in his socks during his escape so that he always has a piece of her. This piece of signified content is significant in her personally in the relationship with one another because when they were inside of the room, they did not have access to a dentist office. The event of actually watching Ma’s tooth break right in front of him and the struggle that he is having coping without her outside of the room symbolizes the connection the two share between one another and the difficulty jack is experiencing learning new things without her.
Jack spends time in his grandma’s neighborhood while Ma is at the clinic. Jack is overwhelmed by all of the chaos that the outside world has to offer and feels like he cannot help Ma while she is spending her time at the clinic. Ma’s tooth is also one of the only sentimental items that he took back with him in the escape so having it outside the room while she is gone is even more important to him after she tries to commit suicide. The tooth is a signifier of the signified content that people would normally just see to be used for chewing and smiling. Jack’s intrapersonal relation towards this signified content has a lot of significance for his life as well as having a part of Ma with him because of the close bond that they share with the self/other relationship. When he accidentally swallowed the tooth, Jack wonders if that means the he will always have with him a part of Ma inside of him (Schmid, P. F. 2001).
After Jack spends time apart from Ma, she is unable to breastfeed him. But the time spent apart also makes Jack realize that he doesn’t need to be breastfed anymore. There is a strong presence of a sacred divine between self and other when recognizing fidelity and or authenticity. This is a good example of the term we discussed in class this term known as essential freedoms. Essential freedoms are senses of freedom that are both horrific and liberating. Jack is going through this “freedom” because he is without Ma when he is outside of the room.
Jack recognizes that he has a responsibility and lacks authenticity to fully understand that responsibility on a structural basis. Jack says to Ma, “Let’s just stay,” when she was plotting their escape because he is worried about losing her and everything not being normal (Donoghue). I-thou in reference to the notes cover in Martin Buber’s studies are moments when ego fades away and allows a person to be or feel past any personal needs and wants. This is dialogical in the sense that it is from self to either and it is a genuine dialogue. On page 131 Jackson is “who’s anybody” and this is because Jack does not understand there are other people. His relationship with mom shows the inseparability between self and other in relation to Martin Buber’s I/thou.
Absence within room signifier is put under erasure differing from outside of the room to ultimately protect. Playfulness is Ma’s game in regards to looking after jack’s well being and helping him to thrive. Experimental lifestyles give jack’ identity and overall shaping because of the difficulty to objectify things causing him to be rather inchoate. On page 145 of the text, I found the differing/deferring with how Ma had a full presence in the room with the events with Officer Oh. Throughout this exegesis of the text, the emotional roller coaster from the perspective of Jack and to think about how hard that would be to live like they did. This book was a perfect book to do an exegesis based off the material we covered in class. As a business student the course is not the easiest but the book has had me keeping a close eye about the play of signifiers in my everyday interactions and the signified content I have with various people in and outside my kinship..
Analysis of the Death of Emma in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary, is a novel about a woman named Emma and how her affairs and desires lead to her demise. Flaubert alludes the overall meaning of Madame Bovary in every section of this novel. This holds especially true for the closing section, when Emma dies and the reader is shown how the town reacts. This novel is supposed to avert young women from being adulterers by showing the consequences of adultery and romantic unrealism. This is conveyed through the harshness of Emma’s death, the impact and outcome of Charles’ life, and the reaction of the town.
Emma commits suicide by consuming a handful of arsenic, she does this because she thinks it will be a painless and rather easy death . However it does not end this way, Emma death is long and full of suffering. This is a consequences for all her adulterous and irresponsible actions, that she thought she could get away with. Emma not only cheated on Charles(with 2 full blown affairs) she also consistently took advantage of his money and sent them into a tremendous amount of debt. Emma attempts to run away from her debt and failing affairs by committing suicide and Flaubert does not allow her to go with ease. Flaubert torchures Emma and finally gives her a taste of her own medicine. He also contrasts Emma’s idealization of her death, which is peaceful and painless, with a grotesque version of suicide. Flaubert refuses to let Emma continue to live in her romanticized fantasy life. The closing finally forces Emma to suffer the consequences of her own actions, thus providing a warning to the reader.
The closing also shows the reader how Emma’s actions also affected others. Emma caused Charles to go into debt and lose all the money that he worked so hard for. Emma also broke his heart when he finally found out about his affairs. After Emma died Charles wanted her to be buried in the finest green velvet and he also did not want to sell any of her things, which only caused him to go into further debt. Then while going through a desk he would have to give to the debt collector, Charles found a love letter to Emma from Rodolphe. Then as he proceeded to investigate he found all the other love letter Emma received, both from Leon and Rodolphe. To add insult to injury Charles ran into Rodolphe at the market where they proceeded to talk about the affair. Poor Charles could not take anything else at this point because shortly after Berthe found him dead. Emma’s actions pushed Charles to an early death and caused Berthe to lose both of her parents. Flaubert does this to show what happens when one is selfish and does not consider how their actions could affect others.
After Emma’s death everything in the town continues as if nothing ever happened. Even Leon and Rodolphe proceeded with their lives as if nothing ever happened, Leon aven got married. This shows the reader that being selfish and adulterous gets you nowhere in life. Though you might think you are important to the people you are having the affairs with, you can vanish and they will not be affected, at all.
Emma Zunz by Borges: Marxist Approach Analysis
Marxists Analysis Essay of “Emma Zunz” by Borges
Explain why the Marxist approach works well for “Emma Zunz.”
Marxist approach views life in dialectic approach as all things happening in our day to day lives are two-sided. “Emma Zunz” is a story of irony that has ideas of that tends to be both on the side of justice and revenge, and of the right and wrong. Given that the story is that of the art of fiction, it portrays the true events in life as described by the Marxist approach. The character Emma Zunz is seeking a path of revenge mentally and emotionally through various means including; a maze of lies, anger, and hurt, and murder to seek justice for the death of his father. The tale is, therefore, a tragedy of restricted choices that views life on two sides. While striving to complete her mission, Emma came across a man who acts as a tool for Emma. Emma served her for pleasure whereas the man served her for justice, proving the Marxist approach that everything has two sides.
The Marxist approach has it that economic conflict produces various classes of people; the rich, middle, and the poor, and inherently class lead to conflict. For instance, in the tale of Emma Zunz, Emma is a lost child who has now become an avenging angel. She articulates her hatred of two systems of patriarchal oppression. The society is characterized by individuals who oppress the less privileged members in the system. The economic system in the story is that where male bosses exploit male and female workers while the social system is that whereby men exploit women such as the daughter of Manuel Maier. Manuel Maier was forced to change his name from Emmanuel Zunz, a derivation of his past identity. The daughter goes ahead to inherit the shame to live in the shadow of Emmanuel’s alleged crime (Borges 216).
Describe how the Zunz family has been affected by the declining economic circumstances
The Zunz family happens to be significantly affected by the declining economic conditions that are marked by the death of Manuel Maier. Emma Zunz recalls the outings to some small town when their father was still alive. The declining economic situations seemingly separated the family as Emma tries to remember the whereabouts of her mother even as she weeps. The declining financial conditions also led to the selling of a family house at auction, alongside a disgrace to the family, following a court verdict (Borges 217).
What is Emma’s attitude to her work, both official and unofficial?
Emma’s reaction to her work is that of determination. She decides to inherit the shame of his father and lives in the shadow of his alleged crime. Being by herself, she is determined to execute her act of revenge through every possible mean. For instance, when she comes across some men, she chooses one who cannot draw from her an empathetic response but instead act as a tool for her. Emma is determined to serve him for purposes of pleasure so long as he serves her for justice. Emma’s determination and confidence ends up in the horrible murder of Loewenthal as a way of completing her mission for revenge (Borges 219).
Comment on the line “Tearing up money is an act of impiety, like throwing away bread; the minute she did it, Emma wished she hadn’t”
The act of tearing the money can be associated with tearing the money, which is also linked to throwing away the bread. Both the impieties and improprieties are committed within the context of a greater meaning. She tore the money and the letter informing her of the death of Manuel Zunz as an indication of her loss of innocence. She regrets having torn the money and after that she is filled with a feeling of sadness even as she dresses up. The sense of sadness after tearing the money could also mean being sad because of losing her innocence (Borges 218).
Why is Aaron Lowenhal considered “in the eyes of all an upright man”?
Aaron Lowenhal was viewed by all as an upright man since he decided to stay in the outskirts of the town where criminal activities are not frequent as compared to the town. Being vigilant on his security is an indication of his wish for a society that is not characterized by criminal activities. He has a big dog in his residence as a way of ensuring maximum security. Aaron Lowenhal is also said to have paid an excellent dowry for his late wife; a factor that adds him the credit of being upright.
Are Borges characters exclusively determined by money and its role in the society?
The characters in the tale happen to have the love of money. For instance, Aaron Loewenthal is said to have paid an excellent dowry for his late wife. The same character is noted to have a strong passion for money. Apparently, he knows the roles of money in the society as evident by the dowry he paid.
What, ultimately, gives Emma’s work meaning?
Emma’s work is given meaning when she manages to defend her work of murder as the story ends. Her tone of voice through the phone happens to be real, just as her hatred. The death of Aaron Loewanhal seals the story as a successful work of Emma.
The Hidden Risks and Powers in “Emma”
In Emma, author Jane Austen uses third person narration and free indirect discourse to show the same objects from different perspectives. The detached narration provides an ironic perspective that criticizes the characters’ misreadings of situations. The use of free indirect discourse in the novel shows how many different characters read the same people or situations in completely different ways. Through these contrasting perspectives of the same objects, the use of perspective in the novel reveals more about the subjects than it does about the object itself. The subjects’ viewpoints reveal the characters’ personal desires and biases. The objective third person narration reveals the misguided subjective realities of the characters and criticizes how one-sidedness and presumption blind objective judgment.
Austen highlights perspective in Emma by using free indirect discourse. Perspective is the practice of showing the same object from different viewpoints. The third person narration flows freely in and out of the minds of different characters who have contrasting perspectives. For example, when Mr. Knightley and Emma are discussing Mr. Martin’s marriage proposal to Harriet Smith, the two argue about whether or not Harriet is a suitable match for Mr. Martin. In their discussion, their opinions about Harriet are revealed. While Emma believes Mr. Martin is “inferior to [Harriet’s] rank in society,” (98) Mr. Knightley argues that Mr. Martin is “as much her superior in sense as in situation” (97). Through the use of free indirect discourse, the narrator provides insight to both Mr. Knightley and Emma’s personal stakes in Mr. Martin’s proposal and Harriet’s refusal. As he leaves the conversation, Mr. Knightley is “very much vexed” and feels “ the disappointment of the young man, and [is] mortified to have been the means of promoting it by the sanction he had given; and the part which he was persuaded Emma had taken in the affair, was provoking him exceedingly” (101). The narrator provides insight into how Mr. Knightley feels as he leaves the conversation with Emma and explains why Mr. Knightley has such a furious reaction to the news that Harriet refused Mr. Martin. During the conversation, Mr. Knightley never explicitly states that he is so angry because he is embarrassed that he endorsed the match, so the advantage into his mind because of free indirect discourse provides new information about his character and further insight to his opinions about Harriet. The narrator also enters Emma’s mind during the argument, who “tries to look cheerfully unconcerned, but was really feeling uncomfortable…she [has] a sort of habitual respect for [Mr. Knightley’s] judgment in general” so it is unpleasant to have him so angrily opposite her on this matter (100). The narrator asserts, though, that Emma “[does] not repent what she has done: she still [thinks] of herself a better judge of such a point of female right and refinement than he could be” (100). Emma believes she knows Harriet better than Mr. Knightley, and therefore her judgment of the situation is more valid and credible. Her confidence in her decision to persuade Harriet not to marry Mr. Martin does not waver. The use of free indirect discourse allows both Mr. Knightley and Emma’s perspectives to be considered in the matter of Mr. Martin’s proposal. The seamless movement in and out of Mr. Knightley and Emma’s private thoughts gives the audience a balanced perspective of Harriet. Even though they are discussing and thinking about the same object — Harriet Smith — their differing opinions are revealed through their subjective perspectives of her.
Although one would expect that having multiple perspectives of the same object one would have a stronger objective understanding of the object, these perspectives end up revealing much more about the subject’s desires and biases than about the object itself. For example, when Emma first meets Harriet she notices that Harriet is “a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired” (69). As a result, Emma quickly becomes “quite determined to continue the acquaintance,” (69) which is unsurprising considering Emma is still feeling “the absence of Mrs. Weston” (68). Emma decides in this moment that “she would notice her; she would improve her; she would detach her from her bad acquaintance, and introduce her into good society; she would form her opinions and her manners” (69). While there is some insight into Harriet’s character, the description of Emma’s perception of Harriet reveals more about Emma’s desires to shape and form Harriet into a suitable acquaintance for herself, “certainly a very kind undertaking; highly becoming her own situation in life, her leisure, and her powers” (69). Emma uses the opportunity to mold Harriet in order to exercise her power and to have something to keep her from being bored. Her desire to exercise this power reiterates how the narrator warns at the beginning of the novel that “the real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself” (55). Emma’s perspective of Harriet gives much more insight into Emma’s personality and desires than it does into what Harriet wants and who she is. Similarly, Mr. Knightley’s dissenting opinion of Frank Churchill reveals more about Mr. Knightley’s desires and bias than it does about Frank Churchill’s character. While everyone else in town seems to be liking Frank Churchill, especially Emma, Mr. Knightley believes Frank is “just the trifling, silly fellow [he] took him for” (203). This seemingly unjustified opinion of Frank makes a lot more sense when Mr. Knightley reveals his personal feelings for Emma, as it appeared prior that Frank and Emma would be acquainted or even married. Mr. Knightley’s perspective of Frank Churchill is therefore more indicative of his personal desires than it is of Frank’s character.
While the subjective perspectives are more telling of the subjects’ desires and biases than the object’s, there are instances in the novel where the perspectives of the subjects entirely contradict the objective reality. The use of free indirect discourse reveals the flaws of allowing personal bias to block objective judgment well before the characters realize it themselves. For example, when Mr. Elton gives Emma the charade, because she so desperately wants to play matchmaker and set up Mr. Elton and Harriet, she completely misreads the charade to be intended for Harriet, when it is so clearly intended for her. While reading the charade, Emma reinforces that “this is saying very plainly” that Mr. Elton desires courtship with Harriet (106). Emma exclaims after the descriptions in the charade that the writing is “Harriet exactly” and asserts that he must be talking about “Harriet’s ready wit!” (106). At the end of the charade, Emma ensures Harrier that she “cannot have a moment’s doubt as to Mr. Elton’s intentions. [Harriet] is his object — and [she] will soon receive the completest proof of it” (107). Emma insists she has no doubts whatsoever that Mr. Elton writes about Harriet, but later it is revealed that Mr. Elton intended the charade for Emma. It becomes quite clear that Mr. Elton desires Emma all along during the party when “Harriet seemed quite forgotten” by Mr. Elton even though she is sick (139). However, only after their confrontation in the carriage does Emma realize the error of her ways and understand that “it was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together” (154). Emma “look[s] back as well as she [can]; but it was all confusion. She had taken up the idea, she supposed, and made everything bend to it” (152). In retrospect Emma becomes aware of how she manipulated all of Mr. Elton’s action in her mind to fit her subjective desires. While Emma’s intentions may have been good, she allows her own personal desires to blind any objective reality. Even when it is so obvious at the party that Mr. Elton desires Emma instead of Harriet, she still is shocked by the confrontation in the carriage where Mr. Elton “protest[s] that he had never thought seriously of Harriet — never!” (152). Emma’s inability to separate her personal desires from objective judgment results in deeply hurting both Mr. Elton and Harriet. Her actions also have consequences, as the “distressing explanation she had to make to Harriet” would cause “poor Harriet…suffering” (154). Not only is Emma unable to see objective truth, she also ends up really hurting her dear friend Harriet in the process. The third person narration reveals much earlier than Emma realizes that Mr. Elton desires Emma, not Harriet. The narrator’s foreshadowing and clues throughout the novel that the characters perspectives are often incorrect and can cause harm to others if they do not consider objective judgment reveals the problems with only considering one’s own perspective.
The narrator’s use of free indirect discourse provides insight into all of the characters’ perspectives and opinions. This form of narration seemingly provides an objective and more balanced view of the objects. However, the subjects’ perspectives of other characters ends up revealing more about the subjects’ desires and biases than they do about the objects they observe. The detached third person narration reveals a lot of information about the subjects using free indirect discourse, and also serves to criticize when their perspectives are entirely wrong. The multiple perspectives provided in the novel then also serve as a warning that one’s personal biases and presumptions shape a subjective reality that blinds objectivity, and as a result can seriously hurt others.
An Analysis of The Euthyphro Dilemma: Understanding the Concept of God
The Euthyphro Dilemma
The concept of God is one that is extremely abstract with no definite definition of God. The Euthyphro dialogue challenges one to attempt to define the exact nature of God. By determining the source of morality, the precise nature of God is found, and yet the basic characteristics that are attributed to God are called into question. Specifically, his rationality, goodness, and role as creator. The majority of the tenets that we hold about God are based largely in the fact that we know nothing definitely about him, and this dilemma is one of the ways that we can see just how we have overestimated the nature of God.
The Divine Command Theory
To believe that God is the source of morality, is to challenge his goodness and rationality. If God chooses what is good and bad at will and is his own standard by which he judges himself, anything he does including genocide, allowing rape, destroying the world, etc., can be considered a morally justifiable act. Without a way to check God, anything is permissible and yet nothing can be logically explained.
This view of God is slightly disturbing as morality seems to hold the common tenet of preservation of the human race, and this might be used to preserve the idea that God is rational, but factoring this into the equation, bad things are justified as moral to serve the greater good. That is, with this understanding of God as the source of morality, anything is justifiable so long as it preserves the most people. At this point, it can be questioned if God is good, because he does things that are perceived as bad.
In any case, presenting a reason for God’s action, even the reason of serving the greater good, makes morality a tenet outside of God’s power to destroy or change. It is a rule, which he abides by and is a rejection of the theory.
Rejection of Divine Command Theory
To believe that God knows what is good and relays it to us is to deny that he created the moral code. If God refers to this established concept to guide us, then it holds a higher authority, or at the very least, predates him. This challenges the concept of God as the sole creator. This does not indicate that he is not creator of humanity but rather that there are things outside of the locus of his control and scope of creation. He is also not perfect by himself, as the established moral code is obviously the source of his “perfection” and is therefore perfect unto itself.
Under the Divine Command Theory, it is not necessary to believe in God to live a moral life. If God, is the source of morality, and you are intentially and purposefully living within the realms of his commands, then you have some belief in the validity of his commands and therefore him. However, with no knowledge that there are any commands, you can naturally live within them. That is to say, you can be living in the realms his moral code, with no knowledge that he exists at all. On the other hand, to reject the theory, you accept that there is morality outside of God. God’s word and morality are no longer mutually exclusive. You may live a moral life, and not believe in God. Either way, a belief in God is not necessary to live morally.
That being said, most of what we assume about God’s nature, is just that; assumptions. God does not have to be omniscient or perfect to have created us and the world we live in. He does not have to be the sole creator, as the question is then posed, what is the genesis of his state of being and did he “create” himself. If not, we have no point of reference for something that does not begin. We must revise our view of God if we hope to understand the role that he plays, if he exists to play one at all.
The Understanding of the Role of Education in Emma
Emma, Jane Austen’s most comical and spirited novel, is well received for its lively characters and engaging narrative. In yet another story of society verses sensibility, Austen weaves together a myriad of incidents to illustrate how youthful presumptions can distort the bigger picture. In a sense, the storyline of events veils the novel’s real plot, which is devoted to showing how experience is the schoolmaster of maturation. Austen’s deeper purpose, therefore, is to demonstrate that the journey of self-discovery is completed through many forms of education. The education of Emma, the kind-hearted but closed-minded heroine, particularly relies on a combination of lessons that improve her social understanding and awaken her personal awareness.
On the surface, it seems that Emma Woodhouse is the blessed child. Austen first describes her as “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition” (3). She has never met with someone she could not charm, never encountered much that was able to “distress or vex her” (3). In spite of her good nature and attractive person, Emma suffers from “the power of having rather too much her own way,” and is also inclined “to think a little too well of herself” (4). Her main problem, however, is that she is as insensible of these character flaws as she is comfortable with her life situation. All this considered, it is quite evident that Emma’s world must be shaken for her complacency will dislodge itself. This earthquake comes when Emma’s governess, Miss Taylor, marries. Emma’s first and perhaps most challenging lesson, then, is to learn how to subdue her dependency on companionship and grow accustomed to the greatest solitude she has ever known.
Austen suggests that independence is the most pivotal education one can have. This concept of being alone may be Emma’s first lesson, but it is also the most important one in her progress towards maturation. Until she no longer has the constant company of her former governess and best friend, Emma is blissfully ignorant of her own fear of being by herself. She is likewise unaware of her desire for a husband. In good humour, she allows that love might induce her to matrimony, but the idea of she would fall in love is as absurd as sunbathing in Siberia. Laughing at the idea, Emma heartily declares to Harriet “…I have never been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall” (78). What Emma omits saying is that it also embodies what she lives in horror of: being powerless. As Bruce Stovel infers, “Emma fears love because she considers it to be blind. Emma is exquisitely self-contained: the idea of being out of control, of losing her will in the grip of passion, disturbs her.” Oddly enough, it is Emma’s perception of love and marriage, the ultimate forms of companionship, which obscure her estimation of their inherent value. “If I were to marry,” says she, “I must expect to repent it” (78). Any penitence on her part comes once the shroud of puerile individuality gives way to her sentiments for Mr. Knightley, the man destined to be her husband.
Before Emma can admit that she does both want and need a husband, she has to realize the social consequence of married status. To her mind, she will always be so highly regarded that she will gain nothing desirable in a marriage. Thus, she fixes her focus on improving the young Harriet Smith. Harriet, unlike Emma, is “not clever,” and although she is both pretty and sweet-tempered, she has no idea of her family connections, meaning she has no male relation to establish her station in society. Emma is initially drawn to Harriet by her beauty, but, also, by Harriet’s impressionable character. More than anything, Emma seems to be enamoured with the idea of having her own protÃ©gÃ©e for whom she can “form her opinions and her manners” (20). The friendship she instigates, then, is Emma’s expression of her desire for control, as well as her longing to be an irreplaceable person. Beyond that, Harriet’s role in Emma’s enlightenment is instructive because it opens Emma’s eyes to her own inaccurate presumptions. Through Harriet’s attachment to Mr. Elton, the young vicar of Highbury, Emma reaps the consequences of her foolish encouragement of Harriet’s affections. This is a prime example of how Austen uses the power of influence as a form of education for her heroine. Emma gains a very keen awareness of how she can injure others, despite the good intentions she may have.
The Harriet-Elton debacle also teaches Emma about the barriers of social hierarchy. Mr. Elton’s high hopes for social aggrandizement are palpable to nearly everyone but Emma and Harriet, who has absolutely no claim in society. As he says, “Every body has their level… I need not so totally despair of an equal alliance, as to be addressing myself to Miss Smith!” (122). Emma’s frustration overshadows her own fastidious sense of rank. Once her disappointment for Harriet has subsided, however, she can think of nothing but Elton’s impertinence in setting his cap at her. She is almost insulted that he “should suppose himself her equal in connection or mind,” (125) and is convinced that “he must know that in fortune and in consequences she was greatly his superior” (126). In other words, Emma sees an impassable chasm between their social ranks–very much like the one he perceives between himself and Harriet. Her conceit is, in many ways, just as pitiful as his. This similarity is yet another form of instruction that Austen uses for her disgruntled pupil. Remarkably, Emma does not realize the significance of this experience until she sees it as a reflection of her own misconceptions. As Bradbury puts it, “Emma learns…by analogy.” In her moment of enlightenment, she begins to understand how “If she had so misinterpreted [Mr. Elton’s] feelings, she had little right to wonder that he, with self-interest to blind him, should have mistaken hers” (126).
Mentorship is another form of education that Austen administers to her heroine. Mr. Knightley, the wealthy gentleman who owns the great estate of Donwell Abbey, best fulfils the role of Emma’s present counsellor. With his “sensible” nature and sound judgment, Mr. Knightley is the one person who consistently forms accurate opinions of the people around him. It is Mr. Knightley who foresees the trouble that Emma might put upon Harriet, despite her well-meaning motives, and it is also Mr. Knightley who first suspects the secret relationship between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley is a good mentor indeed, for he “is one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them” (8). As Emma jokes, “Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me” (8). This jest could not be further from the truth, however, because Mr. Knightley is as kind with his criticism as he is discerning of her flaws. Miss Taylor gave her principles, but Mr. Knightley gives Emma conviction. As he says, “I will tell you truths while I can, satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel” (347). Mr. Knightley is, to any end, most dedicated to the cause of refining the moral character of his beloved Emma.
Austen’s final and most compelling tutorial is to reveal the twists of fate to her unsuspecting heroine. This is both humiliating and life-changing for Emma, for although her vanity is consistently gratified, her judgment is exposed as a ridiculously fallible guide. Emma’s list of erroneous conjectures is lengthy. She was mistaken about Mr. Elton, about Harriet’s status by birthright, in her judgment of Mr. Martin too harshly; she allows herself to believe that Jane Fairfax might have an improper relationship with her friend’s husband, Mr. Dixon; she convinces herself that she is in love with Frank Churchill and that he returns her affections; and, finally, she decides that Harriet is quite taken with Frank. As these suppositions prove false, she is able to see the truth. Furthermore, Emma’s sudden clarity reveals to her that she loves Mr. Knightley.
In addition to studying the author’s modes of education, it is worth noting how Emma reacts to her education. Emma’s revelations are manifest in rapid streams of consciousness that interrupt the novel’s general combination of narration and dialogue. These short, disjointed thoughts, accentuated by numerous hyphens and exclamation marks, flow from Emma’s racing mind in a surprisingly cogent form. What is of interest, however, is the fact that each of these soliloquies denotes an ingestion of the truth. Her edification is, in essence, the summation of these epiphanic moments. Her maturing can be traced by how long it takes her to recover from these upheavals of distress and emotion. The first outburst, which occurs after Mr. Elton proposes to her, is “not poignant enough to keep [her] eyes unclosed” at night (127). Emma’s “youth and natural cheerfulness” are, at first, very hard to disturb for any great length of time (127). When Mr. Knightley reprimands Emma for her insolence towards Miss Bates, however, she is so “forcibly struck” that “Time [does] not compose her” (347). Her conviction is so deep that she mopes about as though “she had never been so depressed” (347). Her disposition is similarly inflicted when she believes Mr. Knightley to be in love with Harriet, and in this particular reverie, we see how a crestfallen heroine trembles with shame and lovesickness.
As Austen takes Emma through her education, she proves that every experience in life is a lesson when one is willing to be educated. Austen also demonstrates the value of change by revealing the need for it. As she so eloquently phrases it, “Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken…” (399). This is very much the story of Emma’s life, which is little more than a comedy of errors until her maturation has softened the rougher edges of her character. It is, indeed, difficult to learn that favouring private assumptions, however well thought out they may be, is as dangerous as judging by appearances. This is the reason, therefore, that Austen uses a plethora of teaching techniques to edify her brightest pupil.
The Comparison of the Values the Main Characters Have
From their introductions in Emma, Jane Austen sets the characters of Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley apart, with Mr. Knightley immediately being described as “a sensible man” while Frank Churchill is described as “very good-looking” and in possession of a cheerful constitution much like his father’s. While there are similarities between the two such as their polite and affectionate manners towards those they care for, they differ mostly because of their differences in being reserved. Frank is rather indifferent towards the mixing of classes and can probably be most aptly described as a “dandy” in his speech and actions. Mr. Knightley on the other hand carries out his duties in their society without crossing the bounds of social propriety and almost always expresses ‘correct’ opinions with a simplicity and logic which is not only educational to Emma but also to the readers. While both are seen to have good, charming qualities, the novel does however seem to value Mr. Knightley’s qualities above Frank’s and as seen through Emma’s eyes, upholds Mr. Knightley as the gold standard for the ideal “English man”.
Frank Churchill is seen by many of the characters as an ideal man because of his good looks and charm. It would appear that part of this charm comes from his ability to determine what will please a person without crossing the line into the realm of over-familiarity. When complimenting Mrs. Weston he “did not advance a word of praise beyond what she (Emma) knew to be thoroughly deserved” despite having only known her for a day. Even Mrs. Elton finds “his manners are precisely what I (she) like and approve” even though Frank’s inward thoughts about her are quite the opposite of her opinion of him. This conveys to the readers that Frank is capable of charming and befriending even those who he does not like as he is able to keep his feelings of contempt hidden beneath a layer of polite ease. Despite these good aspects of his personality Frank is not always judged by the novel in a particularly positive light, espicially with regards to Mr. Knightley’s opinion of him. In the beginning of the novel, before Frank even appears, Mr. Knightley rightly judges that “he can have no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people”, a statement that is certainly revealed to be true at the end of the novel when everyone finds out he has kept a secret engagement to Jane Fairfax all along. This demonstrates a somewhat selfish quality as he is at times capable of putting his wishes above the rules of social and moral propriety.
Mr. Knightley, conversely, is a character that might be deemed as Austen’s ‘ideal’ but not necessarily a modern reader’s, although most would certainly recognise him to be the voice of reason in the novel. Readers of the novel are not the only ones who value Mr. Knightley’s opinion as it is mentioned every now and then that other characters such as Mr. Martin and Mr. Elton go to him for advice and counsel. Austen puts Mr. Knightley in a very good light by also showing the readers how capable he is in handling characters with more problematic traits. At his introduction in the novel itself he assuages Mr. Woodhouse’s grief at Miss Taylor’s wedding and his kindness in giving the Bates’ apples from his own orchard also reveal signs of sensibility towards the people in his community to readers. Some critics say that with Knightley, Austen has created the image of an almost faultless “English man”, fully equipped with all the poise and rationality of a gentleman. This point is supported by Emma’s continuous comparisons of other male characters to Mr. Knightley with him always coming out as the superior male specimen. The only mistake in opinion he ever makes in the novel is of Emma’s love for Frank but this is easily forgiven by readers as it was a mistake made out of his jealousy for all the affection Emma shows Frank. Unlike Frank’s sometimes unpredictable nature, as seen when he travels all the way to London for a haircut, Mr. Knightley is a character that readers can always trust as being honest, perceptive and logical. Readers might even find themselves thinking as Emma did : “There was no denying that those brothers (the Knightleys) had penetration”.
The novel quite clearly values Knightley’s simplicity and rationality over Frank’s charming, friendly nature as Austen uses free indirect speech to convey the characters thoughts to the readers. Most of the novel is actually descriptions of Emma’s thoughts and it is through her thoughts that readers see, while Frank is charming and good-natured, his behaviour at times causes “Emma’s very good opinion” of him to be “shaken”. His aforementioned trip to London for a haircut had “an air of foppery and nonsense in it which she could not approve” and that certainly readers would not approve of either. In comparison, Mr. Knightley is always portrayed as upright, morally and socially conscious and never makes a decision that would so much as even suggest an air of “foppery”. Austen appears to reward his character for all of his perceptiveness by dedicating certain chapters and passages to his opinion as seen in his conversation with Mrs. Weston about Emma and Harriet and in the passage about his suspicions of Frank having “inclination to trifle with Jane Fairfax”. It is also precisely because readers trust Mr. Knightley’s opinion that at times his negative opinions of Frank may influence readers into also having suspicions of Frank’s actions, thus presenting him in a bad light.
Ultimately, Mr. Knightley and Frank Churchill’s characters can be said, as some critics have noted, to be representations of a man at different levels of maturity. Besides social and moral propriety, age plays a role as well in influencing the characters opinions of each other; Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates are both given allowances for peculiar behaviour due to their age and readers may also sometimes sympathise with Emma for being foolish and overly cocky in her youth. As such, Frank Churchill is often times referred to as a “young man” and is sometimes forgiven for frivolous actions as they are put down as a consequence of age. Nevertheless, although Knightley appears to be favoured by the novel as an exemplary man with finer values, both are rewarded at the end of the novel with marriage to partners that they love. In Frank’s case some critics have commented that his marriage to Jane; a “superior woman”, suggests that while Austen does not always approve of his values or behaviour she still is mildly infatuated with this character’s charm.