The chatter among the characters, both men and women, serve to reveal facts that a limited omniscient narrator, such as the one who narrates Emma, would not necessarily know. That narrator does not reveal everything though, such as the opinion of others about Emma because the narrator only sees through Emma’s eyes, and she does not always perceive the way others see her or her condescension. A perfect example of this is in Chapter 26 when Emma attends the Coles’ party. During the party, much speculation is made about a pianoforte that arrived unexpectedly at the Bates residence for Miss Bates’ niece, Jane Fairfax. Emma and just about everyone else at the party, including Mr. Knightley, gossip and speculate about who may have sent the pianoforte. Whoever it is, they reason, must be in love with Jane Fairfax.The party at the Coles also serves as an efficient way for Austen to characterize. Emma, for instance, finds the Coles’ invitation to the party presumptuous. “The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them. This lesson, she very much feared, they would receive only from herself” (218). Yet she changes her mind and attends the party probably because the entire village planned to attend. Afterwards, “Emma did not repent her condescension in going to the Coles. The visit afforded her many pleasant recollections the next day; and all that she might be supposed to have lost on the side of dignified seclusion must be amply repaid in the splendour of popularity. She must have delighted the Coles—worthy people, who deserved to be made happy!—and left a name behind her which would not soon die away” (239). Of course, Emma’s attitude serves several functions: humor, characterization, and perhaps, more generally, a critique on a stratified society and/or on a community that would generate such trivial discourse.The party shows that the men in the novel gossip and fuss over what sort of romantic matches will be made nearly as much as the women. Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, loves Miss Bates and all the other women of Highbury who fill his dull hours of hypochondria with gossip and speculation about who will marry whom, and he gossips regularly with Mr. Knightley, his neighbor. Knightley shows an interest in marriage speculation at various points throughout the
Works CitedAusten, Jane. Emma. London: Penguin , 1816, 1966.
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