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It is important to remember that part of Austen's style is the use of irony. There is a tension between the surface meaning and Austen's intended meaning. One of the key scenes which demonstrates this is the Box Hill incident (Chapter 43).
In the opening paragraph, Austen indicates, through her use of language, that everything is not as it seems:
"all the other outward circumstances...were in favour of a pleasant party."
"Nothing was wanting but to be happy when they got there."
These two examples prepare the reader for a contrast between expectation and reality. We see this develop in several ways:
- Frank Churchill speaking 'for' Emma, and being anything but frank (honest)
- The rudeness of Emma to Miss Bates
- Miss Bates' nobility of character when insulted
- Mr Knightley's rebuke of Emma
Each of these examples allows Austen to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of her characters in different ways - through narrative, dialogue and inference.
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