by Jane Austen
Emma Theme of Transformation
Changing her friends, changing her loves, and changing her boring life, Emma seems to be committed to transformation. Self-transformation, however, is harder to come by. Learning how to move from impractical –and often hurtful – imagining of other people’s situations to a reflective "consideration" of her own faults becomes the true transformation Emma undergoes. When marriage is defined as change, any novel about marriage is going to be fraught with transformations – just not the ones that you might immediately expect. Social transformation may be impossible; self-transformation, however, becomes a necessary and natural form of growing up.
Questions About Transformation
- Why does Emma need Mr. Knightley to point out her errors? Would she have figured out her mistakes on her own?
- Does Mr. Knightley change over the course of the novel? How? Where specifically do you see this change?
- Does Emma’s attitude towards Harriet change by the end of the novel? How so?
- Can we actually imagine Jane as a governess? Does the novel present this as a realistic possibility?
Chew on This
Society only recognizes one real transformative experience for women: marriage.
Self-knowledge isn’t as important as social knowledge in Emma.