The 1816 novel of Jane Austen-- Emma give an in-depth study
of the complicated psychology of a nubile woman who had distinctly different
preferences from that of the woman of her time. Emma was beautiful rich and
intelligent –a formidable combination that can make people proud but her
pride manifested in a different way-
in shunning men who got captivated by her. Emma wanted to live single, nursing
her pride and independence and hogging the lime light of society through
generosity and benevolence. But the young and immature girl was yet to discover
her vulnerable side –which secretly begged for the recognition of a superior
and intelligent partner – from one belonging to the opposite camp; men.
As the story opens up the readers find the arrogant young
lady received with a dose of humility. Her confidant governess had left her to
fend her pride and emotions as she had
chosen a man as partner in life –her husband. The beautiful girl
needed somebody to shower her emotions and was in the lookout for a grateful
recipient. Harriet , a girl from the lower strata of the society came handy.
Emma adopted her and invested all her skills in transforming the poor girl into
lady—suitable to introduced into the highest level of society. Emma’s goal
oriented schedule to establish Harriet in society overlooked her emotional
trauma. She convinced the ordinary girl to cut off relation from her low class
boy- friend Mr. Robert and cultivated a friendship with Mr. Elton-the wealthy
man targeted by her for Harriet. A major shock awaited her when Elton took her
attentions for love and chose Emma
instead of Harriet.
Living within the bounds of patriarchic society limited
Emma’s scope of self-expression.
Occasions for exposure were traditional; social balls and marital
ceremonies and here the princess was center of manly attentions. Strangely men
who pursued failed draw her respect and playing the role of superior benefactress, she arranged their match with
her less privileged friends.
There was only one person whom she considered an equal, but
the man never curried her romantic attention and criticized her actions as
irrational and childish. Emma considered Mr. Knightly a friend with whom she
could share her thoughts without inhibition.
Emma’s second attempt to buy happiness for Harriet was with
Frank Churchill. Knightly warned Emma not to do so but the confident woman
moved ahead with her plans against Harriet’s destiny in her own characteristic
stubbornness and insensitivity. Frank turned out to be a cheat and made Harriet
a dejected soul.
To make amends for Emma’s mistake Knightly gave his shoulder
to the poor girl and she fell in love with him. The revelation woke Emma up.
She was confused. On the brink of losing of her friend and anchor she realized
her depth of her dependence on him. Knightly also declared his love for Emma
but both were scared to hurt the poor girl, for whom she- herself had brought so much unhappiness.
It was reverse journey for Emma –to convince the poor girl
accept her ordinariness and be happy with it. Emma grew up finally to see
beyond the superficialitsocial standing
and treasure the human emotion. At the end both Harriet and Emma find
happiness in their respective station of life Harriet with her farmer beau
Robert and Emma with Knightly.
The novel is spectacular in having a heroine with less
appreciable characteristics in contrast to the novels of nineteenth century
where heroines were embodiment of all earthly virtues.