Emma and Clueless- Text and Context

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Ideas about the human condition can transcend time and expressed through different contexts while reflecting society’s changing values. Emma, written by Jane Austen reaffirms and challenges the conservative society of 19th century England, where moral growth is a result of strict social etiquettes and rigid class structure. However, Heckerling has taken similar ideas that speak powerfully about human nature to the different context of 20th century America, within the world of Clueless where a much fluid social structure is orientated around popularity and superficial materialism. While both texts are able to mirror the values and beliefs of its time, they convey similar ideas which are universal and relate to any context. The importance of personal growth is an element of humanity which transcends time, and can resonate through any context. Emma lacks life’s experiences, with “little to vex her” whilst doing “just what she liked”. Her flawed and spoiled character is overshadowed by her “mutual attachment” to her “mild” tempered governess further exemplified through the authorial intrusion that she “had rather too much her own way”. In contrast, Mr Knightley treats others with respect despite their social standing, acting as a moral voice in the novel when he says that Miss Bates deserves “compassion”, not “ridicule” when Emma insulted her as being “dull” at the Box Hill picnic. He scolds Emma that “it was badly done!” acting as compass to the realisation of her wrongs and “cruel” behaviour which “exposed herself to ill opinion”, indicating the strict social etiquettes of her time. Finally, “she acknowledged the whole truth” which metaphorically “darted through her, with the speed of an arrow” that she was in love, consequently leading to her realisation that she had been “inconsiderate”, “indelicate”, and “irrational” towards others, and how with “insufferable vanity she had believed herself in the secret of every body’s feelings”. This marks a major turning...
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