Material and social issues are very visible in Jane Austen’s Emma. So tangible that someone’s status is widely recognized among people in Hartfield. I fancy people at that time can barely keep their secrets, particularly about money.
Take example of Miss Bates. Her social status as an old maid becomes very apparent. She seems worthless not because of her single hood but according to Emma Woodhouse, is more on her very narrow fortune. While a single woman who is wealthy and is well-educated can still has proper status among the society.
Reading the novel gives me clear insight on the gap between the rich and the poor, though they live in villages, remains wide. Also regardless their friendship. Let’s have a look at the relationship between Emma and Harriet Smith. Despite their closeness, it displeases me that Harriet is seen as if she were ‘below’ Emma’s class, probably because her father’s identity hasn’t been known until the novel is nearby the finale.
The friendship between Emma and Jane Fairfax tells clearer picture. Jane, an orphan who is later adopted by the Campbell family, befriends with Emma quite well. Somehow, Jane’ s unfortunate circumstances are still attached with her reputation although she is raised by a well-to-do family.
Although Emma can solve her envy to Jane, I sense Jane regards Emma more superior than she is. Emma’s high social status puts her above Jane. Also, I feel people have a pity on Jane when she decides to walk from home in the middle of the rain after picking up letters. Although Jane frequently says that is so fine with her, people insist on making this as a stupid, low-mannered act any women do. I myself think they act on their pity.
A striking contrast on the treatment towards the rich and those to the poor can be found along the reading process. Although I can sense how each and every character in the novel seems to know each other very well, the differences on material and wealth still speak much on how reputable they are. The difference of the interaction among characters are still defined by their class.
For instance, the interaction between Mr. Knightley and Emma is on the same level because they are both rich. The same goes between Mr. Weston and Emma and the contrast picture can be seen when Emma interacts with Miss Bates.
A man like Frank Churchill, for instance, can still be regarded as a good person despite the lies and secrets that he keeps away from the public. At this, I completely agree with the opinions of Mr. George Knightley. I suppose this because of Frank’s social status as the son of a rich person like Mr. Weston and the heir of his uncle.
I like the novel because it bluntly attacks the ill-manners of the high class people. I admire Austen’s way of describing how painful being low-income people despite their closed bond with wealthy ones, the truth that somehow hurts my feeling.
The picture is from here. Thanks for providing it.