Emma Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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Is Emma a unique Jane Austen character? Why or why not?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jane Austen wrote only a handful of novels, and each one of them has many unique and memorable characters. Among the novels, however, the characters tend to embody particular types. A strong female protagonist, generally a teenager or young adult, who is single and has mixed opinions about marriage is a common feature of all Austen's works. Emma has much in common with Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. However, Emma has only her father, while Elizabeth is closer to her father but also has a living mother.

Emma also has much in common with the two oldest Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility. She is less practical than Elinor and, though she has a whimsical side, she is not as flighty as Marianne.

One of Emma's good qualities is her devotion to her father. She genuinely cares for him and does not look forward to leaving him and to their home if and when she marries. At the same time, their financial well-being allows her to have that option.

Emma is a controversial Austen heroine, however, because her bad qualities seem to outweigh her good ones. Emma is spoiled and selfish. In this regard, she has more in common with minor characters in the other novels, such as Kitty Bennett. One unique feature that sets her apart is her meddling. She is determined to run other people's lives but does not really understand their needs. She is also inconsiderate of others' feelings.

Emma's uniqueness includes these negative factors precisely because she has to grow up and get over them. Mr. Knightley knows that deep down she's a good person, and Austen finally reassures the reader that she has grown ready to marry such a good man.

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