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On the Difficulty of Discovery in Jane Austen’s Emma

Author WuJiaJia
Tutor HuaQuanKun
School Anhui University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Reading difficulties Misjudgment Narrator Complex character Novel Heroine Paradox Emma Austin Free indirect discourse
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2003
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Full of misunderstanding, tricking, and teasing in the novel, Emma by the famous British writer Jane Austen in early 19th century is often conceived of as a comedy of self-deceit and self-discovery. However, it is far more difficult than it first appears. Being a story about reading and misreading, the difficulty of Emma lies in the difficulty of discovery for both the characters in the novel and the readers.By adopting the theories of narratology and reception, this paper makes a detailed analysis of the narrative strategy and the reading process of the novel. By so doing, the paper attempts to explore the significance of the formal means and affective end in building up the difficulty of reading this novel It is through such difficulty in the repeated discovery of the fictional text that Jane Austen successfully revealed the difficulty of discovery of the self and the world in reality to us. The paper is thus divided into three chapters.The First Chapter is on the difficulty of discovery of the world for the characters in the novel. In this chapter, Emma’s discovery of the world around her and her self is first discussed. Throughout the novel, Emma makes lots of mistakes in her judgment in people around her such as Mr. Elton, Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, Harriet Smith and Mr. Knightley. In addition, Emma misreads her own heart on more than one occasions in the novel. This chapter then looks at other Highbury’s misreading of Emma and the world. These people include Mr. Woodhouse, Harriet Smith, Mr. Elton, Frank Churchill, and Mr. Knightley. Some romances are also made up by the people in Highbury such as the relationship between Emma and Mr. Elton, between Emma and Frank, and between Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax. With so many mistakes made by the characters in the discovery of truth in the novel, the process of discovery seems difficult for the readers in the novel and those who are reading this novel.Chapter Two is the most important part in which the techniques adopted by Jane Austen in producing the difficulty of the discovery of Emma and her world for the reader is discussed in detail. Firstly, focalization, that is, the point of view employed in the novel is dealt with in this chapter. Compared with other traditional novels, zero focalization, internal focalization, and multiple focalization are combined in this novel to make things further complicated. Secondly, different kinds of discourses in the novel such as direct speech, indirect speech and free indirect speech, are discussed. They are used skillfully either to produce double meanings, to challenge the reader to supply the missing information, or to deceive the readers. Thirdly, the ambiguous shifts in perspective in the novel are focused on. There are many passages where the attitudes and verbal styles of the narrator and the heroine are so close that it is impossible to drive a wedge between them, which further complicate the difficulty. Fourthly, this chapter goes on to explore how the narrator in the novel increases the difficulty. It begins by challenging Wayne Booth’s opinion of the reliable narrator in this novel as a ’friend and guide’ to the reader. By oscillating between apparently full knowledge and confessedly partial knowledge, the image of a narrator as a ’friend and guide’ is surely an illusion. Fifthly, the role of Mr. Knightley is examined as the subversion of the narrative voice rather than the representation of it as some criticsremarked. In subverting Knightley’s interpretative authority, Austen allows the reader to question the authority of the narrative voice. Last, the chapter sheds some light on the function of the word games, which repeatedly appear in the novel as the metaphor. In general, the novel contains two groups of character: those who can read between the lines and those who cannot. Thus the characters and the readers must resist all kinds of narrative manipulation while reading. Hence, all these techniques are employed to show that we, the reader, too are liable to mistake appearances for realiti

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