As one of the characters says early on, marriage is an agent of change. For women in Austen’s time, marriage was one of the only ways of changing your lifestyle. It’s no wonder that so much of the novel is devoted to imagining (and re-imagining) different potential matches. Marriage here isn’t just about love, however. Questions of love are complicated by money, family, land and social status, all of which come into play whenever Emma attempts to arrange marriages – including her own. Austen emphasizes the social aspects of marriage in order to expose the economic and class dynamics of romantic love.
The convoluted way in which Emma and Mr. Knightley’s marriage is arranged indicates that they may not be the best partners for each other.
Uneven marriages abound in Emma – one character is always more rounded (and more respectable) than the other.