Everything Bends To It: The Blinding Powers and Dangers of Perspective in Austen’s Emma College

In Emma, author Jane Austen uses third person narration and free indirect discourse to show the same objects from different perspectives. The detached narration provides an ironic perspective that criticizes the characters’ misreadings of situations. The use of free indirect discourse in the novel shows how many different characters read the same people or situations in completely different ways. Through these contrasting perspectives of the same objects, the use of perspective in the novel reveals more about the subjects than it does about the object itself. The subjects’ viewpoints reveal the characters’ personal desires and biases. The objective third person narration reveals the misguided subjective realities of the characters and criticizes how one-sidedness and presumption blind objective judgment.

Austen highlights perspective in Emma by using free indirect discourse. Perspective is the practice of showing the same object from different viewpoints. The third person narration flows freely in and out of the minds of different characters who have contrasting perspectives. For example, when Mr. Knightley and Emma are discussing Mr. Martin’s marriage proposal to Harriet Smith, the two argue about whether or not Harriet is a...

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