Suggested Essay Topics
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1168
1. Contrast Emma’s character with that of her father, Mr. Woodhouse, as they are portrayed so far. How does Mr. Woodhouse serve as a foil for Emma?
2. Why does Emma enjoy matchmaking? What might her life be like without this activity?
1. What seems to be Mr. Woodhouse’s prime motivation or concern? How does it manifest itself?
2. What does Jane Austen introduce in these chapters to delineate class distinctions? Cite specific examples from the text.
1. What is the significance of Emma “befriending” Harriet, as opposed to Emma becoming her friend? How is this indicative of class distinctions, and to what extent does it further delineate Emma’s character?
2. Despite some inherent danger, at least according to Mr. Knightley, Emma has much to offer Harriet. What does Emma get out of helping Harriet?
1. What does it say about Emma’s influence, and of Harriet’s character and circumstances, that Emma’s approval is apparently more important to Harriet than Mr. Martin’s love, and Harriet’s possible wedded happiness and status? (Keep in mind this is in the context of early 19th Century England, and not late Twentieth Century America).
2. Emma’s cleverness is obvious, but she shows little, if any, capacity for self-awareness or introspection. How is this shown in these chapters?
1. What are some of the specific aspects of socializing in the time, place and class that Jane Austen writes of? How are they brought out in these chapters?
2. How does Austen use socializing to move the story along? Is this convincing?
1. How does the initial argument that Emma has with Mr. Knightley show they are well-matched?
2. Characterize the friendship of Emma and Harriet. Why is their relationship a prescription for disaster?
3. While Emma connives to match Mr. Elton with Harriet, Mr. Elton thinks he is courting Emma. Give examples of events that illustrate Emma’s blindness to his affections.
1. Emma is shown to be more introspective now, but is she seeing matters more clearly? Cite specific references from the text to support your view.
2. What seems to be underlying the dispute between Emma and Mr. Knightley over Frank Churchill?
1. Characterize Jane Fairfax. What can you conclude about Emma from the fact that she doesn’t like Jane?
2. Give Mr. Woodhouse’s opinions on three subjects, and tell how he injects comedy into the action of the novel.
1. Characterize Augusta Hawkins. What hints at a possible collision with Emma?
2. Characterize Frank Churchill as he is portrayed thus far. Is his character obvious or at all ambiguous?
1. How are class distinctions in early Nineteenth Century England brought out in these chapters? To what extent are they relevant to the modern reader?
2. In this time and place and station in society, a piano in the home was a status symbol, and a moderate degree of singing and playing the piano were considered necessary in a young woman. How is this brought out in these chapters and how is it made central to the development of the storyline?
1. What is the significance of the following sentence beyond its immediate content? (Chapter 27). “A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.”
2. How do the details of the ball being planned further delineate the characters involved in the planning? How is the project as a whole balanced or punctuated by personal motives?
1. Give specific examples of how Emma taunts Jane Fairfax and how she enrolls Frank to join her.
2. What makes Emma think she fancies Frank, and what dissuades her from becoming romantically involved with him?
3. Mrs. Elton arrives in Highbury flaunting her claims to society in her hometown of Maple Grove. How does she satirize high society in general?
1. To what extent might Emma’s criticisms of Mrs. Elton been seen as a projection of some of Emma’s own faults? Cite specific passages from the text.
2. Compare Mrs. Elton’s befriending of Jane Fairfax to Emma’s relationship with Harriet. Is either situation entirely self serving or entirely altruistic?
1. How do class distinctions vivify the context of the novel? Give some specific examples from the text.
2. Compare the characters of Mrs. Elton and Mrs. Churchill.
1. How does Jane Austen use the incident of Harriet and the Gypsies to move the plot along? Is it convincing?
2. Why do you think that Emma still relishes match making? Does it help or hinder her becoming “more aquainted with herself”?
1. How does Emma become a pawn in the secret relationship between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax?
2.Give specific examples of the pastoral beauty of the English countryside as portrayed in these chapters. What does Abbey-Mill farm reveal about Mr. Martin? What does Donwell Abbey reveal about Mr. Knightley? What effect does seeing these two places have on Emma?
3. Give a history of how Mrs. Churchill clawed her way to the upper class. How does her climb compare to Mrs. Elton’s?
1. Why did Emma tease Mrs. Bates? Was she the real object of Emma’s ire or was she in the wrong place at the wrong time?
2. What motivates Emma’s offers to help Jane Fairfax? Could they be partly due to a rivalry with Mrs. Elton?
1. Considering that the novel Emma was published in 1816, how does Emma’s increasing self-awareness give the book an arguably modern aspect?
2. How can Chapter 47 be seen as a pivotal one for Emma, and for our understanding of the novel? Cite specific passages from the text.
1. What advantages and disadvantages may be seen when Emma and Harriet part company? Consider each character’s viewpoint.
2. Look back with dramatic irony on the earlier interactions between Emma and Mr. Knightley throughout the novel, knowing what they’ve only recently become conscious of, how might this change your perspective of the novel?
1. Jane Austen spoke of Emma as “a heroine whom no one will like except myself.” To what extent do you feel this justified or unjustified?
2. According to Lionel Trilling, “The narrative technique of the novel brings us very close to her (Emma) and makes us aware of each misstep she will make.” Cite several examples of this from the text. Does this make Emma a more vulnerable and sympathetic character that she might seem otherwise?
1. How does Emma display her lack of gentility in these chapters?
2. Though Emma was born into a class superior to Jane Fairfax’s, how does Jane compensate for this inequity of birth and show that she is on a par with Emma?
3. Emma blasts Frank and Jane for defying social convention and writing their own rules. How is this hypocritical in light of Emma’s previous actions?
4. Give a detailed history of the stormy relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley. What qualities does Emma possess that made Mr. Knightley love her despite her flaws?