The analysis of female characters in Jane Austen’s novel ‘Emma’, 499 words essay example
Although Emma has, by definition, almost the opposite personality compared to typical Austen heroines, the secondary female characters in the novel still provide examples of the difficulties women faced without financial independence in the late eighteenth century. These characters include Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax, and Harriet Smith, who each provide examples of three possible scenarios for women who lack a higher social status. Miss Bates never married and is entirely dependent on her mothers little income. She is the only character that remains a spinster, serving as a warning to women who are unable to achieve marriage at a young age. As the years go by, her poverty increases, as does the amount of mockery that she must endure from those around her. This is, ironically, the path that Jane Austen herself had to follow. Austen depended on others charity for the majority of her adult life. Because of Austens personal financial difficulties, it can only be expected that almost all of her heroines struggle with the reallife issues that she had. The only difference is that most of these issues are typically resolved by marriage at the end of the novel.
Harriet and Jane Fairfax are on the other end of the spectrum, where they receive their happily ever after. Harriet is a poor girl and is dependent on those around her. Since she is the daughter of a tradesman, she has few hopes for marriage until Robert Martin, and she is always in danger of going beyond her social capabilities due to Emma. In the end, however, her relationship based upon friendship with Martin pays off as they start a life together. The foil character to Emma, Jane Fairfax in many ways seems to be the more appropriate heroine in Austens terms. She possesses the same grace, beauty, and intelligence that Emma holds, but only lacks the title of being a gentlemans daughter, a fact that would seemingly doom her to live her life as a governess. Yet her happy ending is ultimately marrying Frank Churchill and achieving high social status. Her relationship with him was implied to have been merely friends at first as well. For both of these characters, marriage is the only possible option to prevent poverty and social stigma. It can be assumed that these marriages do end happily, because it is implied that the bond of friendship seems to have provided a stable foundation.
Emma does become a sort of idealized model for an intelligent woman to maintain her independence. Yet, Austen does note by the end of the book that even a woman like Emma cannot help but get married in the end. Through Emmas characterization and her financially insecure secondary characters, Austen sharply critiques a biased society that gives quite few options to women, but also supports the feminist viewpoint of love based on fellowship. Yet in the story, Emma does indeed have the greatest opportunities and the brightest future as a result of her wealth, social stature, and fellowship.
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