Educating 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...

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