Emma Is A Likeable Character Or Not. Term Paper

Length: 5 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Literature Type: Term Paper Paper: #23179919 Related Topics: Girl Interrupted, Character, Art Appreciation, 19th Century Art

Excerpt from Term Paper :

¶ … Emma is a likeable character or not. Emma is an interesting and complex character, and she can be quite unlikable, especially when she meddles in the affairs of others and does not recognize the danger of that meddling. However, in the end she shows that she has grown up, can take responsibility for her actions, and is finally ready for true love, so she is a likable character.

Emma is an interesting character, but she does become likable, even though she can be callous, and is truly a snob. Austen introduces Emma at the beginning of the book by saying, "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her" (Austen 3). Immediately many female readers might be put off, simply because Emma does not seem very sympathetic. She has everything, seemingly, and many readers probably do not, so why would they possibly like or sympathize with her?

However, Emma does begin to grow on the reader as the book progresses. In fact, she has much to recommend her. She is a caring person, and Austen shows this by the fact that she takes care of her elderly father and clearly loves him. She is patient with him, good-natured, and manages the household, all things he needs, and she is kind with him, even though he is over indulgent to her and cannot see her flaws.

One of the most unlikable things about Emma also reflects society at the time, and that is her attitude about the social classes. She does not think Harriet should marry a farmer who is "beneath" her in class, and Mr. Elton, a reverend, would not consider Harriet for a wife because she was "beneath" him in social status. England was extremely class conscious at the time, as this illustrates, and that Emma subscribed to this class-consciousness is not an attractive trait. It makes her a snob -- unwilling to simply see the good in people, rather than their cultural status and circumstances.

Emma also ignores evidence around her, and tends not to understand the results of her actions, which makes her seem rather shallow and naive. She uses her class to break up the romance between Mr. Martin and Harriet, showing that she does not understand these two people at all, while she prides herself that she does. She says, "Indeed, Harriet, it would have been a severe pang to lose you; but it must have been. You would have thrown yourself out of all good society. I must have given you up'" (Jane Austen 48). This illustrates what a snob she is, but it shows how she can be quite callous and even rude at times, certainly things that do not endear her to others.

Emma forms quick opinions of others, too, like the insufferable Mrs. Elton. Once she makes up her mind she is not easily swayed, and that is one reason her matchmaking is so ineffective. She sees only what she wants to see, not the truth. That is one reason she is so often surprised when men say they love her. She really does not understand the nature of people. This makes for some funny results in the book, but it makes her more vulnerable, and that makes her a more likeable character in some ways.

It is easy to see why Jane Austen said that Emma is "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like?" Austen published this novel in 1815, and Emma certainly did not fit the mold of women at that time. In fact, Emma did not fit in with Austen's other characters, either. They were women who needed financial security and wanted to get married, while Emma is wealthy and does not need a man to take care of her. She does not want one, either, which is certainly not representative of what women were supposed to want at the time. Women were supposed to grow up and get married, (always within their class), so Emma does not represent what society thought about women at the time. That is one reason that Austen might have said that people would not like Emma....


It was not just her personality, it was the fact that she represented freedom for women, and many people were uncomfortable with that idea.

In addition, Emma displays some negative character traits, such as her meddling nature and her inability to recognize traits in others, that might put off some readers. She is not the epitome of womanhood that English society expected at the time, she is free, does not need a man, does not want to get married, and has a circle of friends. Some readers might be jealous of her, while others might just think she was nothing more than a spoiled and willful child. However, in reality, Emma grows more charming as the novel progresses, and she grows up, as well. For example, she is very contrite when Mr. Knightly points out that she has been ignoring Jane Fairfax. She thinks to herself, "This is very true,' said she, 'at least as far as relates to me, which was all that was meant -- and it is very shameful. --Of the same age -- and always knowing her -- I ought to have been more her friend'" (Austen 262). This shows she has a good heart, and is not afraid to change her ways, and that makes her more endearing.

Emma is likable because she does not like some of the meaner characters in the book, like Mrs. Elton. She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, like Harriet and Jane, and she recognizes vanity and arrogance when she sees them in others. As her character develops throughout the book, her personality becomes more engaging, and that makes her more likable. Austen may have thought her readers would not like Emma, but she did a good job of balancing her character to make her more charming, and that makes her easier to like as the book progresses.

She is perhaps the most engaging and likable when she realizes that she is in love with Mr. Knightley, but that Harriet loves him, too. She allows Harriet to talk about her feelings, even while she inspects her own growing awareness of how she really feels. She does not interrupt or tell her friend the truth, which is a kind and caring thing to do, and she makes a sacrifice, which is a strong thing for her to do. She really matures as a woman at this point, and it makes sense that Mr. Knightley loves her, because she is now ready and suitable for marriage. She was a young girl at the beginning of the book, but now, she has matured, and she is far more likeable as a result. The reader can see her progress through the book, and how she grows from a girl to a woman, and they begin to identify with her, and see her as a fully formed character, rather than a one-dimensional girl at the beginning of the book.

No, it is not necessary to like a work of art to appreciate the work that went into creating it. Even if you do not enjoy a particular type of art, you can still appreciate the artist and their creativity. You do not have to love a work of art to understand its meaning and importance, even if you do not like its subject matter or theme. However, to truly appreciate the art, no matter what type it is, from a book to a painting, the viewer has to be involved in it somehow, and in the case of a book, be concerned about the outcome. Usually, it is the characters that create this emotional response to a book, and so, it is better to like the characters than to dislike them if you really want to enjoy the book.

Emma is not really a totally unlikable character, and so, it is easier to read this book than if she was more unlikable. She is charming, witty, and as the book progresses it becomes clear she does have the best interests of those around her at heart, even if she is really not a very good matchmaker. So, it becomes easy to appreciate Emma and her quirks while reading the book. The happy ending would not be so satisfying if you did not like the character, either, so Austen had to make her likable, of only a few people would have read and appreciated her work. It has become a classic, so that is clearly not the case.

You can have an appreciation of art and the creativity it takes to create it, but it will never be the same as if you truly appreciate it and identify with it. To truly appreciate Emma,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Jane Austen. Emma. Ed. James Kinsley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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