SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAYS ON EMMA
Sample Student Essay 1
Emma does, as Charlotte Bronte observes, quite perfectly
present "...the lives of genteel English people curiously
well." It is not, however, a novel bereft of passion. The
emotions that do exist in Emma are quite clearly portrayed
very differently from those that exist in a Bronte novel, but
are not, I believe, of necessarily less intensity. They are
more heavily masked, more delicately expressed and, perhaps,
owing to the particular characters, more or less intensely felt,
depending on who is involved.
For example, when Emma's little friend initially expresses
the interest shown to her by the former, she is bashful but
hopefully eager. One can immediately read that she is excited
by the attentions and probably able to respond in kind. Her
confusion of feelings is due as much to her age and inexperience
as to Emma's admonitions.
There is more depth of feeling shown by Emma's former governess
in her relationship with her own husband, although that is not
afforded much attention in the book. Likewise, Emma's sister's
marital relationship is almost a caricature, but there are relationships
that do exist in that way. The sister is without great intelligence
and operates on a very superficial level. Her husband's sarcasm
and anguish reveal more depth in his character.
In contrast, Jane' s feelings of heartbreak are keenly felt,
but necessarily submerged. Hers is an implied anguish, muffled
in deference to her aunt and grandmother as well as what she
perceives to be her ineffable fate. Her pain is real and piercing;
the intensity of her love implied through her suffering.
It is in Mr. Knightley that the exquisiteness of Austen's
restrained style is most evident. Here is a man who feels most
deeply, yet follows social form strictly. He is absolutely and
always correct, even in his misjudgements, and his morality
and goodness are extreme. But his sense of adhering to form,
and of being attuned to the feelings of others almost leads
to his undoing. The moment in the garden as he is about to declare
his love for Emma is among the most suspenseful I have ever
read, because the depth of emotion is palpable, as is the real
possibility that the moment will pass without action because
of misjudged propriety.
This is passion!
Sample Student Essay 2
Charlotte Bronte's description of Jane Austen's work is somewhat
accurate. For in the novel Emma we get a superficial
picture of the lives of the inhabitants of the town of Highbury,
but no depth of raging passion anywhere. Passion if it exists
at all is subdued and very controlled.
In the novel we meet Emma, a young rich woman who runs her
father's home without question from anyone. She spends much
of her time gossiping and playing matchmaker for her friend
Harriet. She lives much in her own imagination, that is the
world as she sees it and has a hard time facing reality sometimes.
She does not display any strong passion for anyone or anything,
save her own opinion. She dearly loves her father and her friends
and is very faithful to them.
When Emma talks about being in love with Frank Churchill,
she makes it seem so light and airy, one immediately realizes
that she could not truly be in love with him. When she discovers
her love for Mr. Knightley we get a sense of stimulation here,
but nothing as raging and fierce as the love between Catherine
and Heathcliff. Emma's love is calm, cool and collected.
George Knightley, a man of reason, clear headed and realistic
is Emma's friend and eventual husband. He too displays no "passions"
that can be said to be strong. He always seems to be in control
and even in proposing to Emma does not lose control of his emotions.
They agree to marry and calmly wait until Mr. Woodhouse gives
his permission to marry.
Other couples in the novel are presented in this way. Mr.
and Mrs. Weston seem very happily married, safe, secure with
each other. There is no hint of any passions good or bad running
between them. It is somewhat of a surprise to see that Mrs.
Weston has a baby, since from the presentation in the novel
one would not think of these people getting intimate with each
other. No kisses are exchanged, no embraces of any depth.
Frank and Jane were secretly engaged and this came out without
any significant outburst from anyone in Highbury. His father
did not scream at him, his uncle accepted the engagement. All
went well without incident. There was excitement and more gossip
but not much else.
Throughout the novel everyone seems proper and in place. There
are some characters like Miss Bates and the Eltons who have
major flaws, but they too are not allowed to be anything uncontrollable
or passionate. Society is structured and everyone is expected
to know his or her place. We see a lot of silly superficial
nonsensical things, like Harriet's saving a piece of Mr. Elton's
pencil and the stir caused by Jane's piano, but nothing of deep,
seething emotions. The people of Highbury, in their small world
seem happy to gossip, visit and meddle in each other's lives
(when it is possible to do so). No one wants to stir up the
pot. At the end of the novel even Emma, who we'd hope would
do something different married Knightley and accepts her role
in society. She consents to her place in the society and will
not disturb tradition, much to her father's happiness.
This novel leaves with a light happy and something silly feeling.
The reader's passions are not disturbed in any way, except to
note the somewhat superficial lives of the characters. Lucky
Return to Midterm Questions.