Janes Expression through Emma
Jane Austen’s novel Emma is basically a biography. As Jane Austen matured through her childhood years, she acquired many talents which are reflected through the character Emma. Jane Austen lived in the popular image of Victorian society. Many critics agree that Jane Austen bases her novels on her own life. In the novel Emma Jane Austen portrays her life in a time of maturing through the main character Emma.
In the early years of Jane Austen, her accomplishments and talents are then reflected in the character Emma. Austen as a child had an excellent talent for drawing, painting, playing the piano, and dancing. As in her novel Emma, the character Emma is very talented in these areas. Emma’s expertise was in dancing; she absolutely loved it and was very good just as Austen (Parrish 340). Emma being the perfectionist that she was, always wanted everything ideal, and that goes back to Austen in her talents and everything she did. In the novel Emma, when Emma is asked to paint a portrait of her best friend Harriet for Mr. Elton, she wanted to perfect the artwork all the way down to the finest detail . Even when she thought she had a long way to go to finish it, Mr. Elton stopped her and said that it was perfect the way it was (43).
Inevitably, Emma’s life was based on the childhood and early years of Jane Austen’s adulthood. Although part of the upper class society at an early age, Austen was not influenced by many of the contemporary novelists of that time (Parrish 343). As a child Austen was never around many people. She did not trust herself enough to speak unkind words to anyone, and she controlled her temper well (Parrish 340). She was essentially confined to her home and nearby areas. So everything Austen wrote or any idea she had was genuinely original and a homemade article (Parrish 343). Austen always delivered herself in a manner with great fluency and precision (Parrish 340). Once Jane Austen stated: “My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others” (Lauber 79). Austen was known for taking not of the behavior of mankind and a class of society, having a universality that makes them valid to modern times as well as the days of George III (Hardwick 11). In studying this behavior, Austen tries to identify her characters with those in her life, including herself mainly. Austen’s ability to have consistency with perception and depiction of the people around her, and her occasional special touch of irony, makes her novels timelessly successful (Hardwick 11). Also, by her perceptive powers, as Virginia Woaf said: “Jane Austen was a mistress of much deeper emotion than appears upon the surface. She stimulates us to supply what is not there” (Hardwick 11).
The image of the Victorian society in the minds of people is not the reality. It just happens to be that Jane Austen lives in what people believe the upper class Victorian society is. The popular image of this period was elegant, handsome men and women dressed in big fluffy dresses who went to balls and social events most of the time (Mitchell 1). Mainly these people inherited their wealth. Their daily lives consisted of having brunch everyday, long chats, playing cricket, and in the evenings had social balls. The upper class women painted, played the piano, had social graces, and most of the time had general knowledge of political events (Mitchell 7). The middle class women were usually a governess (Mitchell 7). As in Emma, Miss Taylor who later becomes Mrs. Weston was a middle class women, and she was the governess of Emma from the time she was a child till Miss Taylor was married to Mr. Weston (16).
Basically, Jane Austen lived in this world. She shows this through the novels she writes. In her novel Emma, Emma meets with her best friend Harriet for brunch one morning to discuss the matter about Mr. Elton (69). Another time Emma throws a ball for Mrs. Elton and invites everyone to show that she does not despise Mrs. Elton (291). The reality of the Victorian society is that it was hard to make a living. Practically everyone except for the upper class had it bad (Mitchell 2). Men struggled to make enough money to support their families and provide food for their wives and children. They would work nonstop, and just barely have enough for the day or week or month (Mitchell 2). So the popular image of Victorian society is not entirely a false impression, but is correct to a certain extent true of the upper class. The only problem is that the image is of all people who lived in Victorian society. Just like today, not everyone is wealthy, so not everyone in this period had the easy life. Rarely does she have “lower class” people in her novels (Hardwick 12) and this is clearly seen just by reading her novels, especially Emma, and Sense and Sensibility where Austen has the atmospheres of the novels consist of the upper class society life. In Emma Austen did not have any lower class people. The only character that may not have been considered as one of the upper class, would be Miss Bates (18). Although she dined and socialized with the upper class, it was only because of her connections with Miss Jane Fairfax. Miss Fairfax had a well known and well spoken name (151). The thoughts of critics of Jane Austen go hand in hand with the belief that Austen bases her novels on her life experiences.
Austen tries to identify her fictional characters with those in her life, including herself (Hardwick 12). Austen explores the difficulties of ‘independence’, those problems that life poses for a person who seems to have everything (Dwyer 89). The relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley reflects Austen has appreciation of her own independence (Dwyer 95). Emma never thinks that she can fall in love. She always plays match-maker for her friends, but when it comes to herself, she doesn’t know. Emma doesn’t realize she is in love with Mr. Knightley until near the end of the novel (425). Like Emma, Austen has realized that her position and her skill have given her the power to bully and enlighten or be charming at the same time (Dwyer 94). At one occasion when Emma has a little picnic with her friends, and Miss Bates is there, Emma shows that she does have the power to bully Miss Bates and at the same time enlighten the others that are in her company (238). Laurie Lanzen Harris says of Jane Austen, “Austen possess a masterful ironic insight, whose strength and sensibility are perhaps best revealed in a character confrontation with this dichotomy of reality and the power of self-delusion” (Harris 29). Self-delusion explains Austen’s writing so well. Austen’s works are truly concerned with moral values in life, and her satire is the best when aimed at the snobby and presumptuous class (Harris 29). This statement held true being that Austen was part of that class and most of her settings in her novel revolve around the upper class.
In the novel Emma Jane Austen portrays her life in a time of maturing through the main character Emma. It is clearly seen that Jane Austen bases her life through the character Emma. Their childhoods, lifestyles, and life experiences mirror one another. Still research has questioned whether Austen makes herself the heroine in her novels or through her novels.