Saturday, September 21, 2019

Financial Independence and the Single Woman Essay Example for Free

Financial Independence and the Single Woman Essay Most, if not all of Jane Austen’s renowned novels feature the trials and tribulations of single women—from Pride and Prejudice, to Sense and Sensibility, to Emma. The focus is specifically on the concept of marriage as the only viable choice for a single woman, if she wished to live substantially in her later years. However, while the subject of being wed to a suitable gentleman is present in Emma, the main character possesses a quality different from those in the other stories mentioned—Emma Woodhouse is financially stable. Therefore, this discussion of Austen’s Emma will be done through a different angle, which runs contrary to the author’s quote above. Matrimony in Emma is thoroughly explored and its nature as a solution for an unmarried woman’s future, yet it apparently does not apply to the story’s protagonist. Further arguments will expose the same logic as it is perceived today—after all, Austen wrote most of her work during the mid- to late 19th century. II. Emma Woodhouse and Matchmaking The penchant of the title character for matching her women friends with possible grooms composes the running narrative of the story. Because of a previous success, Emma decides to do the same for her friend Harriet Smith, an innocent but socially-inept young woman. Emma pours all of her efforts in setting Harriet up with the pompous Mr. Elton, and cut all possibilities of Harriet’s consideration of a marriage proposal she had received from Mr. Martin, a young farmer. Eventually, after many plot twists and turns and appearances of more characters, her plans backfire as the arrogant Elton reveals his true desire for Emma, and not for Harriet. Harriet happily ends up with Martin, and Emma admits to her own affections for her longtime friend Mr. Knightley. It is obvious that Emma’s obsession with matchmaking does not cover merely attraction; she chose Mr. Elton for Harriet mainly because of his financial stability, being the local vicar. Compared to the income of a regular farmer, a vicar would ensure a better life for Harriet. Clearly, the era’s societal norms and economic potential for women are at play, for woman were generally not entitled to many occupational choices; the most common would be as a family teacher or governess, both which are not financially rewarding. But the biggest bane of women then was the possibility of being single until they reach an age unacceptable for marriage—which would be around the mid-20s. For Emma, born into a wealthy family and allowed to make her own decisions, the best way to make sure her less fortunate women friends would have good lives ahead would be to marry a rich man. This is not explicitly implied in the story, as Emma’s designs were disguised as just a bored, rich girl’s newest hobby. However, in analyzing her own conditions as well as her initial rejection of the poor Mr. Martin for Harriet, it is obvious that she subscribes to the concept of marriage being the only solution for women other than herself.

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