Essay Topic: That Emma is as relevant today as it was in the C19th
How relevant is the story of ‘Emma’ including the social and emotional issues that run throughout the story to society today? Would young women in the 20th century struggle with these issues or are they unique to the period in which the novel is written?
‘Emma’ is described as a classic and unique novel, from the highly acclaimed novelist Jane Austen. The novel is centered around the main character ‘Emma’, who is an attractive, rich and bright young upper class woman. The character is described as being conceited and a snob. The main theme of the novel is about developing relationships and the principles of society in which we live.
The central character in ‘Emma’ is depicted as a powerful young woman who has a great deal of authority with her peers, whom she dominates throughout the novel. Emma lives in an elegant and affluent society. She is very egotistical and is so busy telling everyone else what to do she fails to notice that she herself is heading towards a crisis of her own
The theme of personal relationships is explored throughout the novel, as it describes the development of a close friendship between the main character Emma and Harriet Smith. The character of Harriet Smith is described as being a young woman from a different social background to Emma, which results in Harriet idolising Emma because of her high social status. This type of relationship is similar to peer pressure seen in modern society.
Harriet in the novel allows Emma to dominate her life and is dragged through a number of problems in which the outcome always results in Emma’s ideal conclusion. During this process Emma finds herself caught in her own crisis, but is so busy meddling in Harriet’s life to realise her own situation.
Another issue of the time that is dealt with in the novel was the importance of setting up for your future and gaining the best opportunities in life. This goal was achieved by women in marrying a man of higher social and economical status than yours. When Harriet told Emma how fond she was of a farmer called Mr Martin and that she hoped for marriage, Emma disagreed immediately and set upon changing her opinions based on her own feelings towards class. Emma disagreed strongly to Harriet’s feelings as in Emma’s eyes and standards being a farmer meant little money and too low a social status, “A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last person to raise my curiosity.” (pg 59.) Emma even persuaded Harriet to decline a marriage proposal from Mr Martin by practically saying that now she was mixing with a higher class Mr Martin would not be acceptable to be with.
Whilst Emma is busy interfering in Harriet’s love life she fails to notice her own changing. She fails to see the change in her relationship with Mr Knightly, as it develops from a friendship into a more serious relationship. This nearly results in her losing the person she is destined to be with.
The main themes of the novel ‘Emma’ can be transferred to modern society as seen in the movie ‘Clueless’, with both stories being developed from the original novel by Jane Austen. ‘Clueless’ is adapted or ‘spiced up’ for modern viewing by being set in the rich American suburb of Beverly Hills.
The character similar to Emma in ‘Clueless’ is called Cher. The characters in both are young rich, selfish women, both wanting their own way. Both characters make friends with a woman whom they see as being ‘totally clueless’ and in need of help and direction. The main characters are both patronising and see their actions as being a good deed. The friends in both stories find happiness and love, which do not meet up to the main characters standards. In both stories the friends follow their hearts and find happiness which makes both Emma and Cher rethink their own lives and grow up in their attitudes.
The main theme in both stories of relationships and finding the right partner are still relevant today. The need not to follow what others tell you to do like in peer pressure, but to do what you feel is right for you is still a current issue in today’s society.