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by Jane Austen

Emma Theme of Wealth

For women, wealth equals independence from men and demeaning jobs. For men, wealth means a life of leisure. The allure of money leads men to marry irritating and socially insignificant women or to ignore ones they truly love. The (imagined) promise of future money causes Emma to propose impractical and imaginary loves for her friend. As love becomes increasingly important, it has to be balanced against the possibility of financial incompatibility. There aren’t any fairy-tale endings in Austen. If people are happy, it’s because they’re well-fed and well-housed. And that takes money.

Questions About Wealth

  1. Mrs. and Miss Bates aren’t rich, but they are respectable. Why?
  2. Do people have to be equally rich to be happy in marriage?
  3. Is Mrs. Elton a good catch? (After all, she does have £10,000!)
  4. Which character cares the most about wealth? How can we tell?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Highbury’s social scene is completely determined by money, not friendship.

In Austen’s novel wealth is only significant if you’re a man. A wealthy woman has as few options as a poor one.

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