Emma Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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What does humour mean and how is this applied to Emma by Jane Austen?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Humor is the term used to refer to what is funny, that which makes us smile or laugh. In literature, it often is shown in exaggeration or hyperbole. Some situations are so outrageous or over-the-top that we can't help laughing. Humor also often relies on defying our expectations. When we are surprised, we often chuckle. Irony is also a form of humor and is often a way to comment on the weaknesses of people or society.

Emma is abound with humor. The entire plot of the novel hinges on tricking the reader into believing the clueless Emma Woodhouse's wrong interpretation of events. At the end, when we realize with surprise how we as readers have fallen for Jane Austen's ploy, we tend to laugh—or at least smile. 

Within this larger structure, Austen develops shorter gags. The novel opens with an over-the-top joke: Mr. Woodhouse's lament that Emma's former governess, Miss Taylor, has gotten married. In our day, we can lose the impact of this, but it is the equivalent of someone pitying a...

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