Class structures are the most obvious –and most important – differences between characters in Emma. The rich control social situations, the social climbers attempt to seem rich and important, and the poor are at the mercy of the rich. Although Austen’s novel turns on Emma’s attempts to raise her friend out of social oblivion, the narrator mocks any and all attempts to change the social hierarchy. Manners mean everything, and those who weren’t born with good breeding just can’t measure up to those who are.
An ironic tone allows Austen’s narrator to fully explain the workings of a trivial social system as if it were the center of the world – a move which eventually places readers in the position of valuing the very system Austen critiques.
Austen’s novel implicitly endorses the class system which it overtly critiques.