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Analysis of Characters & Text of Emma

The plan of this research is to analyze the characters of Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Harriet in Jane Austen's novel Emma, and then to do a close textual analysis of the novel.

The opening sentence of Emma goes far to explain the content of character of Austen's heroine, although as the narrative that follows makes clear, Emma is as it were too clever by half and not as predisposed to happiness as she thinks she is. When Austen says Emma "seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence" (Austen 1), she is really providing a clue that the story fills the gap between seem and is. Indeed, Emma's character development is the content of that process. The development is marked by a series of misperceptions, misinterpretations, and social and moral misjudgments, each of which, when corrected, teach Emma a permanent lesson in growing up and each of which amount to an accretion of wisdom. The mistakes are plentiful, and the serious and trivial ones alike are compounded by the confidence with which she makes them. Thus she takes credit for bringing Mr. and Mrs. Weston together, which had no bad consequence, and she takes pride in pushing Harriet toward Mr. Elton, which has a humorous consequence when Mr. Elton misconstrues her efforts. She prefers Harriet, the natural daughter of somebody (= a social inferior), as a best friend over Jane Fairfax, her social and intellectual equal. More seriously, she misjudges Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, which has the consequence of not preventing her from forming a good friendship. Most seriously of all, she commits an apparently trivial and playful social faux pas at the Box Hill picnic by "limiting" the poor, mindlessly chattering Miss Bates to three dull comments (Austen 238-9), which has the apparently trivial consequence of embarrassing Miss Bates but exposes once and for all her real failure as a human being: being oblivious of the benefits conferred by having material, physical, emotional, ...

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