Emma Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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Explain how the relationship between Emma and Miss Taylor changes over time.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Though formally hired as Emma's governess, Miss Taylor, or Mrs. Weston as she later becomes, acts as more of an older sister towards her young charge. Among other things, this means that Miss Taylor doesn't adequately step into the shoes of the deceased Mrs. Woodhouse. Unlike her predecessor, discipline's not really Miss Taylor's thing. She's more of a boon companion than an authority figure, and quickly develops an easy intimacy with Emma.

The downside of this, of course, is that Emma loses her way a little. Without an adult authority figure to guide her, Emma becomes quite conceited, thinking herself better than the denizens of Highbury. Miss Taylor's friendship with Emma has had the unfortunate effect that the young lady's numerous character flaws have gone unchallenged, greatly hindering her development as an adult. Miss Taylor's indulgence of her charge has led to a complete role reversal in the normal teacher-student relationship, as Mr. Knightley shrewdly observes:

You might not give Emma such a complete education as your powers would seem to promise; but you were receiving a very good education from her...

Once Mrs. Weston (as Miss Taylor's now become) gets married and has to leave Hartfield, Emma is understandably bereft. Not only has she lost a very close companion, but she knows that her days of getting away with murder are well and truly numbered. Emma must soon put away childish things and start to mature as an adult, a long overdue process that was only further delayed by her former governess's well-meaning indulgence.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Miss Taylor is hired when Emma is a child to be her governess, meaning she has some authority over Emma at first. However, because of Emma's mother's death and sister's marriage, Emma takes over running the household at a young age. At this point, Miss Taylor becomes her companion.

As the novel opens, the biggest change of all occurs. Miss Taylor has just married, becoming Mrs. Weston. This means, of course, that she is moving out of Hartfield, Emma's home. Emma will lose her constant companionship. While appreciating her former governess's good fortune in marrying, Emma is grieved at her friend's departure. She dreads long evenings alone with her invalid father. Although Mrs. Weston will only live a half-mile away and remain her friend, Emma knows it will never be the same. This causes her to take up with Harriet Smith.

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