One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other, so believes Emma Woodhouse. In this line, spoken to her father, the actions of the title character as chronicled throughout this book are given motive and context. Emma is a creative and imaginative girl, desperate to find some sense of enjoyment in her plain village. Jane Austen's Emma is wholly dependant on the novels geography. Austen must create the world in which Emma lives in order for the reader to properly understand the context and extent of her struggles. The story takes place in Georgian-Regency period of England. Emma lives within a culture of genteel women and men who uphold the strict orthodoxy of their social behaviors. They also perpetuate these behavioral norms upon the rest of society, and the young women being bred within this atmosphere. Both the plot and the story's ability to keep relevancy with relation to location are dependant on geography. This is because of the comic nature of the novel. Without an accurate plot description of the characters locations and homes, the reader would be, understandably, without context. Emma views her world as her playground and the people in her life are pawns (without malice) for her enjoyment.
[...] Weston, arrives to town, Emma is briefly interested in the new young man in the neighborhood. She is likely interested out of her own boredom and due to the fact that there is nothing new and fresh in which she might take interest. Had Frank Churchill been present for all of Emma's life, she would likely remain disinterested in his physical qualities. Because, however, he has traveled in from an afar distance, she is briefly intrigued. Emma is interested by what is not familiar; distance and foreignness are both unfamiliar. [...]
[...] Further, Emma is overly advantaged and due to the social position in which she is born. Austen describes that, real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think too well of herself.” While this description provides a great backdrop for how the reader will come to understand Emma's situation, Austen then provides the first example of geographic inclusion within the story. We learn of the marriage of Emma's friend, which will mean that she will move farther away. [...]
[...] Knightley suggests a visit to Donwell (the area of Highbury in which he and the Martin's live,) the author describes this part of the village, “famous for its strawberry beds, which seemed a plea for the invitation: no plea was necessary to tempt the lady, who only wanted to go somewhere.” Perhaps more than go somewhere, she wanted to travel in her mind to a new venue wherein her days could be captivated by something new, rather than the sameness that dominated her present existence. [...]
[...] In the tradition of old England, the main locations are given formal names. There is Highbury, the village, Hartfield, the house of Emma and her father, Donwell Abbey, Mr. Knightley's home, Vicarage, Mr. Elton's home and the Randalls, home to the Weston's. Highbury, as noted, is sixteen miles from London and nine miles from Richmond. Emma's home is described as being one of notable importance, hence the reason for its formal naming. The village is the setting for most of the novel. [...]
[...] If Emma were wholly satisfied and if she found entertainment within her own life then she would not have to turn to ‘matchmaking' or meddling in the lives of others. Much like Emma, Jane Austen spent her childhood in a small village, seeking a creative outlet to entertain her thoughts. Therefore, while the geography of the novel is not fed upon as a primary subject, it is very much a central point upon which the developments of the story depend in order to progress. [...]
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