AustenesqueJane Austen

Emma: Worst Heroine, Best Moral

Emma is one of my least favorite of Austen’s heroines, but not for the reasons listed in this article on lithub, namely that she is handsome, clever, and rich.

We still have complicated responses to women who have more, look better, and do more, and worst of all, don’t seem all that apologetic about it. (Demi Lovato’s “What’s Wrong With Being Confident?” shouldn’t even be a rhetorical question.) We might call it the “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” predicament. Its most recent incarnation seems to be the brouhaha over “Resting Bitch Face,” a concept brought to bear most often on exceptionally beautiful, powerful female faces, which some would prefer to glimpse only if obsequiously smiling. Read more here.

Emma treats people like playthings. via
Emma treats people like playthings. via

Emma is my least favorite because she spends most of the novel not only believing she knows what is best for everyone, but manipulating them into doing things they do not want to do. Poor Harriet Smith!

However, the moral of the novel Emma is one of Austen’s best and most important. There is only one person who knows what’s best for your life, and that is you. Emma’s moral is important. Only one person knows what’s best for your life: you.

One thought on “Emma: Worst Heroine, Best Moral

  1. Have you even read the book??? This couldn’t be further away from what happened in the book, nor does it even come remotely close the moral of the story! Emma consistently believes she knows what’s best. In the end, when she finds out how she was wrong about Churchill, Harriet, Knightley, and even Elton. Wrong about who Churchill really was, wrong about shooting down Harriet’s lover just because of his class, wrong about Knightley not being sensible, and wrong about Elton’s intentions. The story follows Emma’s journey to becoming a better person through trial and error, she was never write initially. Saying the moral of the story is some liberal mumbo jumbo like “Only one person knows what’s best for your life: you”, is nothing short of an insult to the book. Not only is that statement entirely incorrect on its own, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jane Austen did not even consider writing a book with that concept in mind at anytime in her life.

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