Like all of Jane Austin's books, Emma is a story about women moving up on the social ladder through marriage. In that time, women in England were denied the possibility of improving their social status through hard work. In order for them to move up on the social ladder, they had to marry someone who was considered to be of a higher class. The role of women in the nineteenth century England was to attract a husband who had a higher social status, thereby creating a respectable identity for themselves in the social system.
The main character, Emma, was very fortunate to live with her widowed father who was at the top of the ladder. Being in this situation put her in a position of not having to marry in order to obtain a respected identity. Emma possessed a great deal of intelligence and energy, but the best use she could make of these talents was to attempt matchmaking, a project that got her into a lot of trouble. For example, Emma was determined to get Mr. Elton and Harriet together, regardless of their social inequality, but Mr. Elton had a different idea. Mr. Elton's intentions were to advance in society himself by marrying Emma, not Harriet. After Mr. Elton declared his love for her, Emma, with the help of Mr. Knightley's warning, realized that her attempt at matchmaking was wrong and it led to the humiliation of Mr. Elton, Harriet, and herself.
Unlike Emma, Jane Fairfax's life was not so fortunate. At a young age Jane lost both of her parents, forcing her to live with her aunt and grandmother, the Bates, who were very low in society. However, Colonel Campbell, a wealthy army friend of Jane's late father, took her into his home and educated her until the age of twenty-one when she had to return to the residence of her aunt and grandmother. In Jane's situation, if she does not marry, she must become a governess in order to make money of her own. Fortunately for Jane, Mr. Frank Churchill proposes to her, bringing her from the bottom of the social...
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