What narrative techniques does Jane Austen employ in "Emma"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Austen's novel Emma is written in the third person. Although the narrator is omniscient, we are generally restricted to Emma's point of view, and therefore, like Emma herself, the readers often are lacking crucial pieces of information. This lack of information or understanding often causes Emma to behave in ways that eventually turn out badly or embarrass her. Austen's narrative techniques make us empathize with the process of Emma's development.

Another major characteristic of Austen's narrator is that it is an "intrusive" narrator and occasionally addresses the reader directly. The narrative voice is normative and ironic, providing a model of balanced understanding against which we judge the characters.

geenamae | Student

Austen is a satyrist and irony is a great skill of hers. Through the use of the omniscient narrator Austen creates irony in the social system of her era using mostly Mrs Elton. The omniscient narrator allows us knowledge of events that we might not know otherwise. We learn the general view of Mrs Churchill from a number of different characters. We also learn the general view of Mrs Elton. Not many of the opinions are overly flattering yet they are in many ways similar. Both of these women take advantage of the situations they have gained through marriage yet Mrs Elton disaproves of Mrs Churchill having done so. Austen choice of the type of narration allowes us these insights and give her the oppertunity of satyrising her world.


Mrs Elton is a rather meanly protrayed character. Yet, in reality what are her crimes? For a different view of Mrs Elton and a criticism of Austens portrayel of her see the attatched link.

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