The Presentation of Emma in Emma
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(ii) Austen clearly presents Emma’s many faults without ever losing the reader’s sympathy for the heroine.
Write a response to this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to Jane Austen’s novel, Emma.
From the very beginning of Emma, Austen makes it clear that Emma may not be a likable character: ‘Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.’
Emma is the only Austen heroine who begins the book in a position of wealth and high social status. The majority of her other famous characters are in positions of low social standing and use their charm, intelligence, and beauty to find true love (and financial security) through marriage. In each of these cases, the heroine is real danger of spinsterhood and financial dependence. Yet, in Emma, Austen describes a heroine who has none of these problems.
With her wealth, beauty, and position in society, Emma has the perfect life and is difficult to relate to. Moreover, her arrogance and self-involved nature make her a largely unlikable character. It is only after Austen reveals...