several major revelations in the novel that fundamentally change
her understanding of herself and those around her. Which revelation
do you think is most important to Emma’s development, and why?
One way to answer this question would be
to recognize that Emma undergoes her most decisive transformation
when Mr. Elton proposes to her. At this point, she realizes that
she has been completely misguided in her interpretation of Elton’s
behavior, and she also realizes that she herself is implicated in
the courtship games that she believed she was manipulating from
the sidelines. Another possible answer would focus on Emma’s revelation
when Mr. Knightley reprimands her after she has insulted Miss Bates.
At this moment, Emma understands that her vain pleasure in Frank’s
flirtations and her sense of superiority to others in the community
have been wrong. She also realizes how much Knightley’s opinion
means to her. One might also argue that Emma’s decisive transformation takes
place when she realizes that she loves Knightley, or when she agrees
to marry him. A successful answer would consider the intensity of
Austen’s language together with plot developments. For example,
the episode in which Knightley reprimands Emma for insulting Miss
Bates seems relatively unimportant in terms of the plot, but this
scene includes some of the most emotional and dramatic language
in the book.
In what ways,
if at all, might Emma be considered a feminist novel?
Emma may be considered a
feminist novel because it focuses upon the struggles and development
of a strong, intelligent woman. Though Emma’s activities—visits,
parties, courtship, and marriage—are limited to the traditional
sphere, the novel implicitly -critiques these limitations, and implies
that Emma deserves a wider stage on which to exercise her powers.
Furthermore, the novel -criticizes the fact that women must be financially
dependent by sympathetically depicting the vulnerability of Jane
and Miss Bates.
Alternatively, the novel could be considered antifeminist
because it seems to suggest that Emma reaches the pinnacle of her
development when she accepts the corrections of a man, Mr. Knightley.
Not only does Emma give up her former vow of celibate independence, but
she marries an older man who is a father figure.
and Mr. Knightley represent two different sets of values and two
different understandings of manhood. Describe the values that each
character represents, and explain how the novel judges these values.
Frank Churchill is seen by many of the characters
as an ideal man because of his good looks, warmth, and charm. He
focuses most of his attention on determining what will please each
person, and he makes his compliments with wit and style. However,
the novel demonstrates that Frank is also flighty, unstable, and
able to put his own wishes above social and moral propriety. Mr.
Knightley, conversely, is Frank’s opposite in many ways. Though
also polite and affectionate with those he cares for, Knightley
is dignified and reserved. When he expresses an opinion, it is always
the correct one and is stated with simplicity and firmness. The
novel clearly values Knightley’s qualities above Frank’s. But the
fact that Frank is forgiven at the end and rewarded with the love
of a superior woman suggests that the book cannot entirely renounce
its infatuation with Frank’s charms.