Study Help Essay Questions


1. Is Emma a unified novel? If so, where does the unity lie — in the plot, the characters, the setting, the theme, the style, the mood?

2. How does the fact that Jane Austen stretches out her climaxes relate to her concentrating her interest on exploring the effects of emotion rather than on the critical high moments of emotion?

3. Look up the term sentimental novel and determine whether any major elements of that form are used in Emma.

4. Describe the plot structure of the novel. Is only one structure involved?

5. Explain the ways in which Jane Austen uses contrast to effect irony. Are the contrasts simple and clear-cut?

6. Are there any general contrasts such as the difference between generations?

7. What evidence from this novel can you give for or against the critical statement that Jane Austen's point of view is a feminine one?

8. Many have noted that Miss Austen's novels lack any large historical perspective and lack making use of historical events of the day. Can you defend these lacks in Emma?

9. Critics have remarked that the character Emma refuses to let herself be basically involved with or committed to fundamental human concerns. On what levels can you either defend or refute this criticism?

10. In what ways is the setting important to the theme of the novel?

11. Describe the character of Miss Bates and point to instances in which she is important for the satirical delineation of manners.

12. Compare and contrast Miss Bates and Augusta Elton as two compulsive talkers.

13. Who is the raisonneur in the novel and what is his purpose?

14. Re-examine man's absurdities as they are treated in this novel. Are they absurd because they are exceptional? Why or why not?

15. In what ways is Emma a realistic novel, or is it not realistic at all? Justify your answer.

16. What would you say is the largest and most controlling ironic treatment in the novel? Is the reader aware of it most of the time?

17. Enumerate ways in which the eighteenth-century attitude toward social ranks is exemplified in the novel.

18. What are some elements of literary style that Miss Austen inherited from the eighteenth century?

19. What is meant by esthetic distance? How is it achieved in Emma?

20. Why do you suppose Miss Austen, who could liken her literary work to a little bit of ivory, avoids figurative imagery in Emma? Is this avoidance related to esthetic distance?

21. It is often stated that good literature bears re-reading. In what ways is this particularly true of Emma?

22. Consider in order the instances when Emma arrives at some degree of self-knowledge. Can you relate these instances to the plot pattern?

23. What characters other than Emma show an awareness of self-importance? How do they function thematically in relation to Emma?

24. Miss Austen has been accused of cold detachment from her fictional subject matter. What reasons can you give for this accusation? Can a satirist be thoroughly detached from what he is writing about?

25. Why do you suppose Miss Austen once said that Emma is "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like?" Is a liking of subject matter necessary for proper appreciation of a work of art? Is something else equally or more important?