Taking Emma Seriously

"Emma herself is never to be taken seriously, and it is only those who have not realised this who will be 'put off' by her absurdities, her snobberies, her misdirected mischievous ingenuities" Do you agree?

In Jane Austen's Emma the eponymous heroine is "handsome, clever, and rich" but she also suffers from arrogance and self deception. With the good judgement of Mr Knightley, and her own self scrutiny, Emma experiences a movement of psyche, from arrogance and vanity through the humiliation of self knowledge to clarity of judgement and fulfilment in marriage. The tone of the novel and the episodes where Emma is self deceived progresses from the light comedy of Mr Elton's gallantry and the eventual mortification to the sombre depression of Emma's belief that she has ruined her own chances of happiness by bringing Mr Knightley and Harriet together. Although at times the reader is able to laugh at her mistakes, as she moves slowly and uncertainly to self knowledge and maturity, the reader, like Mr Knightley, comes to take her seriously, for in the novel serious moral and social issues are dealt with, issues which directly concern her. While we may be 'put off' by her mistakes, and...

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