Emma: Learning By Humiliation

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Throughout our childhood, we grow up hearing that we learn best from our own mistakes. This common adage tells us that through our experiences and humiliations, we learn life's most valuable lessons. In Jane Austen's Emma, this naïve main character learns through nothing else but her own experiences and shame. Living the sheltered childhood Emma did, Mr. Woodhouse and the rest of Highbury guarded Emma from seeing her many faults and blunders while growing up. Therefore, because she was secluded from her errors, she could never do anything to change herself. Emma's many miscommunications with Harriet, her situations with Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley, and her attitude toward Miss Bates at Box Hill show Emma through humiliation, the changes she is able to make to better herself and at the same time reforms the reader's view of her.

One of Emma's biggest faults is shown when she insists that Mr.

Elton and Harriet should marry. This large imperfection in Emma allows her to see only what she wants to see. Emma attempts to make Harriet into the wife of a gentleman, when she knows that Harriet's social position dictates that she is better suited for the farmer, Mr. Martin who actually loves her. Emma knows as well as anyone that due to differences in class, this marriage could never take place, but refuses to comprehend the obvious. She overlooks all signs of Mr. Elton falling in love with her, and is completely shocked that he could have such feelings for her, when the reader all along blatantly sees his affections are for Emma, not Harriet. After his confession to Emma, the reader for the first time sees that she has feelings and is not the cold snob that we think her to be. Her guilt overwhelms her, she actually...