Essay Topics For Emma Jane Austen

1. To what extent does the narrator express approval of Emma, and to what extent does the narrator criticize her? Choose a passage from the novel and analyze the sympathy and/or ironic judgment the narrator expresses in relation to the protagonist.

2. Emma is filled with dialogue in which characters misunderstand each other. Choose a scene from the novel and describe the mixture of knowledge and ignorance that each character possesses, and how their situations influence the way they interpret each other’s statements. To what extent are we positioned to correct the misunderstanding, and to what extent do we share the misunderstanding until we have more information?

3. How does humor work in the novel? Select a speech made by Mr. Woodhouse, Miss Bates, or Mrs. Elton and describe the techniques Austen uses to make these characters look foolish. What contradictions, hypocrisies, or absurdities are put in their mouths? To what extent do we judge these characters negatively when we see that they are laughable?

4. Emma both questions and upholds traditional class distinctions. What message do you think the novel ultimately conveys about class?

5. Emma is clever but continually mistaken, kindhearted but capable of callous behavior. Austen commented that Emma is a heroine “no one but myself will much like.” Do you find Emma likable? Why or why not?

Chapter 1
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?

Chapter 2
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.

Chapters 3-5
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?

Chapters 6-8
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?

Chapters 9-11
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?

Chapters 12-15
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.

Chapters 16-18
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?

Chapters 19-21
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.

Chapters 22-24
1. Characterize Augusta Hawkins. What hints at a possible collision with Emma?


(The entire section is 1168 words.)

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