Please write about Emma's education in Emma.

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sfwriter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though Emma Woodhouse is doubtless well-educated by the standards of her day, there is a certain indifference in her moral education which shows up in her character and actions. Any father who could afford it (and Mr. Woodhouse could) would educate his daughter in his own home by employing a governess.  There were schools for girls, but they were not desirable for the upper class (country gentlemen) (unless they were Catholic, in which a convent school, probably in France, would be chosen -- but this was not the case for Emma.)  It was considered the very best situation for a girl and young woman to be educated in her home; in the case of Emma, since her older sister had married, she was lately the only pupil of Miss Taylor.

The qualifications for governesses were primarily that she be appropriately educated (like Jane in Jane Eyre) and have ladylike manners, and, most important of all, a "good character" (meaning that she was free of any stain on her social or moral character).  Governesses must speak French, and have education in music and the sciences and mathematics apart from literature and history, these were equally important with her "suitability" and good manners.  Governesses must speak without any regional or lower-class accent, as their accent would be acquired by the daughters (and the sons, until they went off to public school, unlike their sisters).

So why are these facts important when we talk about Emma's education?  By knowing what was typical at the time (for Emma is a fictional character), we can guess at what kind of education a girl like Emma would receive.  What is important to note here is that governesses were not broadly educated in the sense a man would be.  They would speak well, and be able to do fine sewing and to speak French, and be able to teach their young female charges music, literature and history, with current the sciences and mathematics.  Since the role of governess was considered, for even the poorest gentlewomen, a comedown in the world, few gentlewomen relished the necissity of working at the profession.  Specifically, the "excellent Miss Taylor," now that Emma is twenty, has the more important task of geting engaged and married to Mr. Weston, and thus freeing herself from the profession of governess and entering the same class as Emma herself.  This is because Miss Taylor's service in Emma's tuition was completed.