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How does Jane Austen employ irony at different levels in Emma?

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jithu | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 18, 2010 at 6:38 PM via web

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How does Jane Austen employ irony at different levels in Emma?

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micheldemontaigne | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 19, 2010 at 9:40 AM (Answer #1)

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Irony is shown when Emma considers her attraction to Mr. Churchill. She is such a match maker toward Harriet that it is ironic she can't tell when she herself is in love.

This irony is compounded with her indecision in how to respond to the news of Mr. Churchill's secret engagement to Miss Fairfax. She knows she ought to feel wounded by his insincerity, but knows she isn't wounded--and so feels ambivalent. Yet, another irony creeps in...how will society perceive this shift in affection?

Not knowing how to feel due to the concern of the way society interprets the situation is ironic in itself, but this was a concern of great import at the time.

So now that Emma is all grown up, she is ironically still in need of Mrs. Weston's guidance in the matter.

This is one example of the way Austen shifts from personal to intrapersonal and social irony.

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sarahlorraine | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 22, 2010 at 3:33 PM (Answer #2)

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Austen uses irony all throughout Emma, often using understatements to assist her. However, like many other lines in the novel, one cannot fully understand them unless reading them for a second time. For example; on the first page of the novel there are a few lines ("The real evils indeed...misfortunes with her.") clearly outline the context of the novel and shows what Emma does not yet understand about herself.

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nag | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 21, 2010 at 3:24 PM (Answer #3)

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How does Jane Austen employ irony at different levels in Emma

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