What role does the narrator play in the novel, especially in terms of Emma's characterization?

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The narrator serves as the voice of judgment and reason in the novel, particularly when it comes to Emma’s character faults. In essence, the narrator provides objective (and trustworthy) commentary of everything that occurs over the course of the novel. The characters themselves are unable to recognize larger themes and patterns, so the narrator serves to highlight key points for the benefit of the reader. Mr. Knightley serves as an extension of this rational narrative voice and helps Emma, in particular, to identify and improve many of her flaws. Significantly, Austen ensures that the narration is not dry and boring but reminiscent of an actual character, with a witty and ironic style.