Style

Emma

by

Jane Austen

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Chapter 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Emma is written in the third-person omniscient point of view, meaning the narrator knows various characters' thoughts and feelings, though they spend the most time with Emma (and, to a much lesser extent, Knightley). Throughout the novel, Austen uses a technique called “free indirect discourse,” whereby Emma’s thoughts and the third person omniscient narrator’s commentary tend to merge, such as in the following passage from Chapter 30 when Emma reflects on Frank’s feelings for her:

He stopt again, rose again, and seemed quite embarrassed.—He was more in love with her than Emma had supposed; and who can say how it might have ended, if his father had not made his appearance? Mr. Woodhouse soon followed; and the necessity of exertion made him composed.

Though Emma believes that Frank is in love with her at this point in the novel, it is revealed later that he has been in love with Jane the entire time. This excerpt is an example of free indirect discourse because, though the narrator is omniscient (and therefore has access to Frank’s inner thoughts about how he is not in love with Emma), they still describe the scene as if from Emma’s limited perspective, writing, “He was more in love with her than Emma had supposed” as if it were fact. This creates tension such that readers fully believe Emma’s misperceptions alongside her and, later, have to confront her pride and vanity along with her, too.

Another notable aspect of Austen’s style is that in both dialogue and strict narration, she uses dashes to capture anxious and hurried thoughts or conversations. For example, here is Emma worrying about how her father will react to her engagement to Knightley in Chapter 53:

Did not he love Mr. Knightley very much?—He would not deny that he did, she was sure.—Whom did he ever want to consult on business but Mr. Knightley?—Who was so useful to him, who so ready to write his letters, who so glad to assist him?—Who so cheerful, so attentive, so attached to him?—Would not he like to have him always on the spot?—Yes. That was all very true.

The dashes in this paragraph communicate that Emma’s thoughts are racing, as each thought cuts off the previous one.

Overall, like in Austen’s other novels, she spends much more time capturing her characters' thoughts and the social dynamics of the interactions between them than using lyrical language or flowery imagery to describe the world around them.

Chapter 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Emma is written in the third-person omniscient point of view, meaning the narrator knows various characters' thoughts and feelings, though they spend the most time with Emma (and, to a much lesser extent, Knightley). Throughout the novel, Austen uses a technique called “free indirect discourse,” whereby Emma’s thoughts and the third person omniscient narrator’s commentary tend to merge, such as in the following passage from Chapter 30 when Emma reflects on Frank’s feelings for her:

He stopt again, rose again, and seemed quite embarrassed.—He was more in love with her than Emma had supposed; and who can say how it might have ended, if his father had not made his appearance? Mr. Woodhouse soon followed; and the necessity of exertion made him composed.

Though Emma believes that Frank is in love with her at this point in the novel, it is revealed later that he has been in love with Jane the entire time. This excerpt is an example of free indirect discourse because, though the narrator is omniscient (and therefore has access to Frank’s inner thoughts about how he is not in love with Emma), they still describe the scene as if from Emma’s limited perspective, writing, “He was more in love with her than Emma had supposed” as if it were fact. This creates tension such that readers fully believe Emma’s misperceptions alongside her and, later, have to confront her pride and vanity along with her, too.

Another notable aspect of Austen’s style is that in both dialogue and strict narration, she uses dashes to capture anxious and hurried thoughts or conversations. For example, here is Emma worrying about how her father will react to her engagement to Knightley in Chapter 53:

Did not he love Mr. Knightley very much?—He would not deny that he did, she was sure.—Whom did he ever want to consult on business but Mr. Knightley?—Who was so useful to him, who so ready to write his letters, who so glad to assist him?—Who so cheerful, so attentive, so attached to him?—Would not he like to have him always on the spot?—Yes. That was all very true.

The dashes in this paragraph communicate that Emma’s thoughts are racing, as each thought cuts off the previous one.

Overall, like in Austen’s other novels, she spends much more time capturing her characters' thoughts and the social dynamics of the interactions between them than using lyrical language or flowery imagery to describe the world around them.

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