Austen is a gifted satirist, who uses ridicule, mockery and ironic humour to condemn social vices (character flaws). Snobbery, selfishness and slander are subtly rebuked, and virtue, morality and sincerity condoned instead. The novel, however, does not become a moral tract for comedy is used to demonstrate that personal attributes such as curtesy, generosity of spirit and integrity are recognised as the true signs of gentility. Unattractive (personality, etc - not physically) individuals, such as Mrs Elton, brilliantly demonstrate Austen’s regard for hypocrisy, insolence, and impudence. In delineating (illustrating clearly) the idiosyncrasies of the various couples within the book, Austen parodies the use of marriage to obtain social advancement. Comparison and contrast enables readers to recognise that the Elton relationship is shallow, that of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, based largely on passion, while that of Emma and Mr Knightly is grounded on long standing regard, respect, and mutual affection.
Love / Marriage
Marriage is a central theme within the text, and shown through several different relationships. Austen uses them to demonstrate what various motivations exist in drawing couples together. Social custom and expectations play a major role in selecting a ‘suitable’ partner. Author and reader alike applaud the love between Emma and Mr Knightly, which is based on respect, admiration and devotion. While their affection for one another is never openly proclaimed until the closing pages of the novel, they have always moved in the same social circles. Their arguments generate humour, as well as making their attitudes clear to the reader.
Frank Churchill, the only suitable rival for Emma’s hand in marriage, lacks Knightly’s “upright integrity, that strict adherence to truth and principle”, that makes him such an admirable character. Churchill has had every social advantage bestowed upon him, and yet he is an inferior character. He is...