Austen's Emma - Control

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To explore control, I would like to ask you, how does social expectation control you? Are you expected to go to school, university, church or a temple and why? The notion of control in Emma is explored through an examination of contextual values and ideologies that confine and limit the characters. Control is an essential feature of life. It orders society and defines social expectations within the diegesis of Emma. This is mimetic of Jane Austen’s own context and our own. Women in Emma were controlled through the social construct of ‘propriety’. Additionally, marriage controlled a female’s life as social standing and lifestyle were dependent upon their male counterpart. Emma is set during the Regency period. During this time, how you performed in society was intrinsically linked to the class in which you were born into. This ultimately defined your identity.

The female characters in Emma allow us to explore the notion of control. The ideologies that dictate the treatment of women explores this notion quite thoroughly. Women, particularly those in the upper classes, were confined by social expectations. Propriety, the notion of accomplishment and the ability to manage a household, were deemed the most imperative of traits a woman must possess. This is most overt when Jane Fairfax and Emma are playing the pianoforte at a party, “Jane Fairfax, who is mistress of music…” The alliteration reinforces the importance of the mastery of the arts and music. Additionally, the third person, omniscient narrator comments that Emma, “had made more progress both in drawing and music…” This highlights the notion that being skilled in the fine arts was significant in the way women were valued. The description of Mrs John Knightley epitomises the way in which women were measured, “Mrs. John Knightley was a pretty, elegant little woman…a devoted wife, a doating mother…”. The description piles adjective upon adjective to reinforce the notion that Mrs Knightley can be described as...
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