Austen's Selective Focalization in Emma

It is tempting to approach a novel with a predetermined perspective or goal, to which all passages and plot events can be forced to comply. With this approach, the story theoretically makes more sense; the messages to walk away with are neatly packaged and presented. This approach, however, cheats the reader of an important interactive process with the novel, one where the reader has an active role in shaping how the text is interpreted. With Jane Austen's Emma, the reader is invited to do just that. Just as Emma imagines motives, plans, and thoughts for the characters in her own life, the reader can quite feasibly imagine the true thoughts and feelings of the characters, as well as to feel just as much immersed in the emotions of the story as Emma herself does. The key to this effect lies in Austen's narrative technique of selective focalization, and how it applies to the way situations are presented, to the eyes through which the reader sees (and thus sometimes misinterprets) the situations, and to the selection of situations and thoughts which are either presented or withheld from the reader's knowledge. It is therefore easy to see that the ideal situation is not a reading process in which every situation makes...

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