An example of gender stereotyping is provided by the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightley is presented as unfailingly calm, rational, and sensible, in contrast to Emma's immaturity and self-confessed foolishness. Knightley takes Emma in hand, adopting a paternalistic attitude towards her, acting as a kind of surrogate father and teacher.
Their relationship reflects the prevalent understanding of gender roles at the time, with men placed in a position of control over their womenfolk. Throughout the novel, Emma has been presented as something of a free spirit, slightly unconventional in her behavior. Yet, the message seems to be that there's a limit as to how much freedom a woman should have.
What Austen appears to be suggesting here is that at some point in a woman's life she needs to settle down with a nice husband and devote herself to his well-being. Although Knightley is a kind and honorable man, it's clear he is the dominate partner in his relationship with Emma,...
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