Study Guide

Emma Tone

By Jane Austen


Ironically Sympathetic (Or sympathetically ironic. Take your pick.)

Austen’s tone and style are directly linked to her narrator’s voice (see "Point of View/Narrative Voice" above for more on this). As we said earlier, Austen’s narrator seems to truly love her characters, but she’s not above poking some fun at all their faults. As a famous old critic from the '40s once said, we learn to love characters for their bad manners; Austen’s tone gently mocks all the silly social conventions which characters take to heart. She gets the most fun out of showing us moments when good manners and a character’s own freaks of temperament collide. Take Mr. Woodhouse, for example: he’s determined to be a good host at all times – but he’s also certain that tasty food will kill his guests. Serving gruel to everyone who comes to his house seems like a nice way to resolve this tension, right?