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The major problem in the world of Jane Austen’s novels is that of getting the...

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aaronteron | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted May 2, 2013 at 9:33 PM via web

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The major problem in the world of Jane Austen’s novels is that of getting the characters properly married. Discuss the feature with particular reference to Austen’s Emma. 

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

Posted May 5, 2013 at 12:26 PM (Answer #1)

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Marriage does seem to be a universal concern for Austen's characters. Marriage was of course the only way that a woman could raise herself up the social ladder and thus the person you married was of key importance. However, what is interesting about the presentation of marriage in this novel is the way that Austen suggests rising too high above your social class is something that can actually lead to unhappiness. The first marriage of Mr. Weston to a woman socially his superior was one that only brought sadness to both parties. In the same way, Frank Churchill must keep his attachment to the socially inferior Jane Fairfax secret because of his fears of being disinherited by his aunt. Lastly, note how Emma thinks of Harriet when she admits to entertaining hopes of a marriage to Mr. Knightley, a man who is socially well above her:

How Harriet could ever have had the presumption to raise her thoughts to Mr. Knightley!--How she could dare to fancy herself the chosen of such a man till actually assured of it!

The irony of this passage is two-fold: Harriet is only free to entertain such "presumption" because of Emma's own work in encouraging her to think of herself as the secret daughter of some noble gentleman, and it is only when Emma finds out Harriet is interested in Mr. Knightley that she realises she is in love with Mr. Knightley herself. Emma causes Harriet to forsake a marriage to a man more in keeping with her social station, but fortunately Harriet herself seizes the initiative and accepts Robert Martin. Marriage may be a vehicle for upward socal mobility, but in so doing, Austen seems to warn, characters may commit themselves to bitterness and unhappiness. Happiness in marriage is something that is only achieved through equality of social status and temperament.

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aaronteron | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted May 5, 2013 at 5:34 PM (Answer #2)

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Marriage does seem to be a universal concern for Austen's characters. Marriage was of course the only way that a woman could raise herself up the social ladder and thus the person you married was of key importance. However, what is interesting about the presentation of marriage in this novel is the way that Austen suggests rising too high above your social class is something that can actually lead to unhappiness. The first marriage of Mr. Weston to a woman socially his superior was one that only brought sadness to both parties. In the same way, Frank Churchill must keep his attachment to the socially inferior Jane Fairfax secret because of his fears of being disinherited by his aunt. Lastly, note how Emma thinks of Harriet when she admits to entertaining hopes of a marriage to Mr. Knightley, a man who is socially well above her:

How Harriet could ever have had the presumption to raise her thoughts to Mr. Knightley!--How she could dare to fancy herself the chosen of such a man till actually assured of it!

The irony of this passage is two-fold: Harriet is only free to entertain such "presumption" because of Emma's own work in encouraging her to think of herself as the secret daughter of some noble gentleman, and it is only when Emma finds out Harriet is interested in Mr. Knightley that she realises she is in love with Mr. Knightley herself. Emma causes Harriet to forsake a marriage to a man more in keeping with her social station, but fortunately Harriet herself seizes the initiative and accepts Robert Martin. Marriage may be a vehicle for upward socal mobility, but in so doing, Austen seems to warn, characters may commit themselves to bitterness and unhappiness. Happiness in marriage is something that is only achieved through equality of social status and temperament.

Thank You, this will be of great help in my thesis.

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