What are some examples of a didactic reading of Emma?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A didactic reading of Emma by Jane Austen is one which reads the novel as a work of moral instruction, drawing from the work both guidelines concerning correct ways to think and behave. It is generally a sort of reading far more common in the nineteenth century than the twenty-first. Under this sort of reading, we can look at the things which happen to Emma in the novel as rewarding or punishing her moral choices, with her eventually happy marriage as a reward for her finally having achieved self-mastery and having overcome self-centeredness and arrogance. Austen emphasizes her interest in moral duty when she has Mr. Knightley say:


“There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do if he chooses, and that is his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution."