Books and Movies Reviews

Emma The Character of Frank Churchill and Reading The Moral Qualities of Men in Jane Austen

One of the challenges posed by Jane Austen, of her heroine Emma
Woodhouse, in the novel entitled Emma, is how Emma must learn to be a good
reader of both male and female characters.The persona of Frank Churchill
poses a constant series of challenges to Emmaâ€"is Frank a rouge and a
coxcomb, or is he a nice young man, worthy (and willing) as a marital
prospect’This education of Emma in moral terms is illustrated by the
choice eventually posed for the titular heroine, between Mr. Knightly and
Frank Churchill.By becoming a better reader of the human character in
general, Emma learns that Mr. Knightly is the better choice of the two male
romantic prospects, and also, by extension that she has misread the female
characters of Harriet Smith and Jane Fairfax throughout the novel.Frank
Churchill thus functions in the novel as kind of a transition figure for
Emma’s moral educationâ€"by learning to read Frank properly, Emma learns to
be a better person, even if Frank is not the most moral character, by any
stretch of the imagination in the novel.
That Emma begins the novel as a poor reader of the human character
becomes immediately apparent in thefirst chapter of the book, which
portrays the charming scene, whereby Mr. Knightly is seen teasing Emma, as
she sits next to her invalid, hypochondriac of a father Mr. Woodhouse, by
the fire late one night.Mr. Knightly notes that while Emma frequently
drew up many improving reading lists for herself, while under the tutelage
of her former governess, she hardly ever read the books on the lists. This
indicates that Emma at the beginning of the novel is a creature of
surfaces, rather than someone who knows how to look deeply into the moral
text of a person’s character.The moral education of Emma, and her ability
to read prospective suitors better is eventually exemplified in her
shifting of allegia…

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