The selected passage from the eighth chapter is a part of the dialogue between Emma and Mr. Knightly, based on Harriet and Mr. Robert Martin’s match making issue, which is strongly condemned by Emma on the basis of difference of social and intellectual status between Harriet and Mr. Martin but Mr. Knightly supports Mr. Martin for being comparatively more respectable and dignified as he is a self-made farmer as compared to Harriet who had grown as an illegitimate child.
This passage holds certain biased female gender statements by Jane Austen which lifted the rhetorical expertise of her novel with the immensity and intensity to create a difference in the opinion of a general public and also of an individual, who had possessed the conventional views of the rigid class structure and orthodox ideas of overlooking women as mere symbols of fanciful appearances.
Emma appears with a strong debate for advocating about the intellectual ability of a woman and adamantly suggests the men of her era to become aware of this point of view of a woman being conscious about their individual identity. Mr. Knightly on the other hand speaks justly on behalf of the men of developing class of the society who could equally possess the status of gentlemen in the society.
Thus this argument was more of a social debate that led both the characters argue logically against certain beliefs of the society that needed to be reformed to let the people grow more as individuals than as just the product of social and conventional beliefs. Austen surprises her readers when Emma acknowledges the superiority of Harriet over Mr. Martin for her individual intellectual capabilities despite her illegitimate identity of parental background that was mentioned as her handicap in the social status by Mr.
Knightly. This manner of expression by Austen discovered a new dimension of analysis and execution of the subject in the novel writing in the eighteenth century literature, which was based on reality but focused through the psychology of the characters. This psychological realism of Jane Austen let her penetrate the minds of the people who existed in the limited sphere around her but even this limited world provided her with the vastness and variety of hidden and suffocated ideas that yearned to expressed openly since ages.
As compared to her contemporary or predecessor novelists Jane Austen enjoyed an edge of being more innovative and meticulous in the accomplishment of her subject. Her dexterity in weaving the plots of her novels which have mostly been based on several characters interrelated with each other through the complexities of their thinking and believing, proved her magnitude of apprehension and deep analysis of the variety of people she had observed around her.
In “A History of English Literature” written by Emile Legouis, and Louis Cazamian and Raymond Las Vergnas, Jane Austen has been compared with her contemporary novelist Miss Burney and they have been specifically compared for their distinct manner of expression and choice of the fate of their somewhat similar (or rather conventional) subjects, which mostly dealt with the issues of love, status of the characters and ultimately ending in successful marriages.
But Jane Austen has been praised for her rather mature “clear-sighted eyes” that could “read through the inner minds of those who live around her, or of the beings whom she invents and animates just as if those minds are transparent”; whereas Miss Burney’s world of novels were more of a depiction of her time and the society that she moved in and about how would a woman succeed through the critical events of her life to achieve a happy marriage. Jane Austen’s world of her novel was more of a depiction of the heroine’s world and how her thoughts, beliefs and notions critically evaluated the world in which she dwelled.
Thus Austen’s world is operated through the mind of her heroine whom she provided with a wide range of liberty to interact with a variety of people and also to develop notions about them. This was a perplexed mode of expression which Austen successfully accomplished in most of her novels. Surprisingly Jane Austen’s apathy about the socio-political scenario of her time never inculcated her knowledge to an extent to show a vivid impact in her writings. She remained quite ignorant about the after math of the French Revolution and the emerging Romantic traits of intellect and expression in the field of art and literature.
Her sole focus had been on how to read and depict the variable minds of the people who lived with or around her and she believed in expressing for the suffocated thoughts and ideas of the muted minds. She preferred to remain aloof from the moral and social code of conduct in the matter of her psychological analysis she would analyze and deal with the most sensitive aspects that were more felt and less expressed by the people of her time. This is the reason why Emma speaks in favor of Harriet and rates her quite high in an intellectual status as compared to Mr.
Martin, despite the fact that Harriet had no legitimate parenthood to satisfy her high social status. The expression of reality requires the cohesion in the acquisition of thoughts that cause concrete notions in our mind and then it requires coherence in the process of development of such potent thoughts that cause the need for an expression. Austen must have deeply observed the psyche of the women of her surroundings to be subtle enough to create Emma or perhaps Austen animated her as a mixture of such women who spent more time in knowing others than knowing themselves.
For many readers Austen’s novels are limited and based on almost claustrophobic room of action that gives us a strong sense of the confined nature of a woman’s existence in early-nineteenth-century rural England, but in the social context, Austen’s commitment to reason and moderation can be seen as feminist and progressive rather than conservative. And her profound hypothesis of the varied psychologies of people from different groups of society enabled her to create intelligent and resourceful heroines who stand in constant contrast to the limits of the constricted world of courtship and marriage defining their sphere of action.