What is the main theme of Emma?

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Social class is a very important theme in the book, as it is in all of Jane Austen's works. Regency England was a very hierarchical society with clear boundaries between the respective classes. And it's clear from reading Emma that Jane Austen firmly believed in maintaining those boundaries. At the same time, she insists upon the importance of the upper-classes' responsibilities towards those poorer and less socially prominent than themselves.

We see this in Emma's well-meaning, but ultimately misguided attempt to instruct Harriet Smith in the ways of Highbury society. It becomes painfully obvious that Harriet doesn't really belong among the upper echelons of society; she is hopelessly out of her depth, artificially elevated to a higher station by Emma's assistance. Thanks to Emma's ill-judged...

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