Jane Austen was highly schooled in observing and writing about the stereotypes of her polite society. Her plots, driven by humor and romantic tension, typically centered on the search for true love reconciled with a healthy economic match. In Emma , the heroine zealously attempts to form love matches among her friends and acquaintances. Ironically, Emma claims that her personal preference is to remain single forever. In the excerpt, the characters begin to play a parlor game in which each must contribute “one thing very clever … or two things moderately clever—or three things very dull indeed.” At the game’s inception, Emma cannot resist the fleeting temptation to play the “mean girl” and is later chastised for it by the man she secretly loves.
Read the excerpt from Jane Austen’s highly accomplished novel Emma , and consider the following questions.
- What societal “types” does the author seem to be dealing with?
- How does language and dialogue enhance this portrayal?
- How does the author balance humor and avoid complete mockery or cruelty?
- Why is this important?