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Essay on Emma by Jane Austen

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Societal Affects of Love

Emma, by Jane Austen, is a classic comedy that took place in the nineteenth-century near London, England. Emma tells the tale of a heroine attempting to be the matchmaker for everyone, and ultimately herself. Emma Woodhouse, the main character, loses her dear friend and governess, Miss Taylor, to Miss Taylor’s marriage, in which she becomes Mrs. Weston. Emma, in search of another cherished companion, comes across Harriet Smith. Although Harriet comes from a lower class in society, Emma admires her beauty and takes it upon herself to improve Harriet in order to make her acceptable to the upper class. For instance, Mr. Martin, a local farmer, seems to have fallen in love with Harriet, yet Emma suggests that she
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Emma, being the manipulative girl she is, doesn’t directly tell Harriet to reject his proposal but hints that she doesn’t need to accept him because she could do a lot better. Emma didn’t even really know Mr. Martin. All she knew was that he was a farmer and farmers were considered the low class, so she just let her beliefs about class ranking steer her opinion to decline Mr. Martin. Miss Woodhouse then shares with Harriet that if she had accepted his proposal then they could no longer be friends because she would be down lower on the social class ranking. Emma says:
Perfectly, perfectly right, my dearest Harriet; you are doing just what you ought. While you were at all in suspense, I kept my feelings to myself, but now that you are so completely decided, I have no hesitation in approving. Dear Harriet, I give myself joy of this. It would have grieved me to lose your acquaintance, which must have been the consequence of your marrying Mr. Martin. (52-53)
After declining Mr. Martin’s proposal, Miss Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley get into an argument because Mr. Knightley sees that Harriet is actually lower in class than Mr. Martin, while Emma disagrees. Mr. Knightley states, “Nonsense!... Harriet Smith refuse Robert Martin! Madness, if it is so; but I hope you are mistaken” (60). Emma thinks that since she is a friend of Harriet, she cannot possibly be that low in class because Emma doesn’t associate with the lower class.
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