Jane Austen's "Emma" - Character Analysis of Protagonist

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Emma Woodhouse: Awake or Dreaming?

A dream. A world where ideas run wild and imagination is the primary mode of thought. Reality is a faraway distance. Eventually, the dream comes to an end as reality creeps into sleep and the fantasy finishes. The story of Jane Austen’s Emma is one of a similar account. Emma Woodhouse, the main character, has an active imagination that causes her to loose sight of reality like getting lost in dreaming. Her imagination and “disposition to think a little too well of herself” causes Emma to be emotionally arrogant and skews her perception of other characters (Austen, 1). Throughout the novel, Emma struggles to develop emotionally because her dream-derived visions of those around her and her obsession with matchmaking distract her from her feelings. Her first misconception is the match she tries to force between Harriet and Mr. Elton, ignoring social rules that advise otherwise. Emma’s self-assured disposition then causes her to misjudge Jane Fairfax. Not being in touch with her own feelings results her to falsely flirt with Frank Churchill. All of these interactions keep Emma from the one relationship that she truly desires: attachment and marriage to Mr. George Knightley. The final realization of her love for Mr. Knightley is a key turning point in Emma’s character. Overall, Emma’s major character flaw, her active imagination and high regard for herself, produce many of the conflicts in the novel. It is not until Emma awakens from her dream, achieves self-knowledge that the real, unimagined interactions between Harriet and Mr. Elton, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are exposed and her love for Mr. Knightley unleashed. Emma’s first attempt at matchmaking is to produce a connection between her friend Harriet Smith and minister Mr. Elton, despite the obvious difference in class and social status between the two. Class structure in the novel is very strict and distinct and yet Emma’s dedication to the match impairs her from the...
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