What Does Austen Reveal Through Misunderstandings and Cluelessness in Emma and Other Works?

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“Do you dare to suppose me so great a blockhead, as to not know what a man is talking of?” What does Austen reveal through misunderstandings and cluelessness in ‘Emma’ and other works? Jane Austen’s novels are known for their depiction of the lives of young women who are represented as heroines and embark on a journey towards clarity and understanding and growth towards maturity. In the time period of Austen’s writing the expectations for women were for them to find a man with wealth who could offer them financial stability and a comfortable way of life. This can be demonstrated through the opening statement from Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, that it is ‘a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife’ and that a man is considered to be ‘the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters’ (Ch. 1). Austen introduces a character, Mr Knightley, into Emma who is shown as ethical and serves the purpose of assisting and supporting the spiritual growth and maturity of Emma, expanding her values and moral discipline through his guidance. Emma can be seen as a representation of a modern woman in contrast to this expectation and is an unlikely heroine given the preconceived ideas of an Austen style heroine. She is one of the first examples of a heroine without financial concern or the desire to adhere to these expectations as she is ‘handsome, clever and rich with a comfortable home and a happy disposition’ and declares she is ‘without inducement to marry without love’ (Vol. 1 Ch. 10). Emma does however possess a major flaw in her mode of thinking as she assumes the role of matchmaker based on her belief that she instigated the match between Miss Taylor and Mr Weston. It is clear throughout the narrative that misunderstanding arises as an important theme which can be attributed to each character

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