Emma Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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How does the setting of Emma impact the characters' actions and the plot?

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The novel's setting has the biggest impact on Emma, through whose eyes we see the story. The novel is placed entirely in Highbury and the adjoining Hartfield, where Emma and her father live, as well as Donwell Abbey, home of Mr. Knightley. The farthest the action of the novel spreads is a few miles away, to Box Hill. Significantly, Emma herself has never been farther from home than Box Hill, which she visits for the first time during the course of the novel.

Because Emma's entire life has been set in a quiet provincial village, this influences how she sees the world and her own place in it. She has never been anywhere else, so she has an outsized sense of her own importance. She also places too much confidence in her own judgments, with comic—and potentially not-so-comic—results. She is clueless, to a large extent, because she has seen so little of the wider world.

Highbury is well delineated as a social world in the novel. We follow Emma and Harriet as they visit the poor in the...

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