Jane Austen "takes the point of view of her heroines." Examine the validity of this statement with reference to the novel Emma.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to this question is both yes and no. Austen generally, in all of her novels and not just in Emma, uses the omniscient narrator to guide us through the trials and tribulations of her characters. Any cursory examination of this novel reveals the author's voice speaking in to the situation and commenting on her heroine and giving us information about what she is like. Consider the following quote, for example:

The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself: these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

This is a classic case of Austen's authorial voice telling the reader important information about Emma and her character, setting her up for the many hilarious mistakes and errors she subsequently makes as she tries to marry people off to one another.

However, at the same time, Austen in this novel does seem to focus and zoom in on the point of view of Emma at various stages, showing the reader precisely what she experiences and feels and how she changes as a result. Consider this quote, expressing Emma's guilt after she realises that Mr. Elton does not love Harriet but loves her instead:

The first error, and the worst, lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious—a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more.

Austen therefore uses the freedom of the omniscient narrator to focus explicitly on the thoughts and feelings of her heroine and how she feels as a result of the somewhat hilarious mistake she has made. Therefore, it is possible to argue in part that Austen does take the point of view of her heroines, but this is not the case in the novel as a whole.


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