Sir Sajjad Ali Khan
October 28th, 2013
The Comic Interest Combined With the Interest of a Character-Study
“Most contemporary readers of Jane Austen, though remote from her social and moral milieu, find her novels vivid slices of life, presenting living characters whose foibles lead to ridiculous and entertaining mischances. So Austen’s intended readers are shocked when they encounter readers who, lacking ironic vision, are repelled by her comic irony, call her “detached,” even “cynical,” and argue that her characters are merely objects of comic ridicule.” 
The novel Emma is undoubtedly a comedy, and it is at the same time largely a study of a complex personality, namely the personality of the heroine “Emma”. The novel as a whole is conceived in a spirit of irony, and the comic interest ensues chiefly from the use of irony, irony in the incidents and irony in the characterization.
“The entire account of Emma’s efforts to bring about this match and its culmination in Mr. Elton’s proposal of marriage to Emma herself instead of to Harriet is wholly comical and amusing. In spite of Mr. Knightley’s warning to Emma that Mr. Elton is not the kind of man to marry a girl in Harriet’s circumstances, Emma continues her plan, thinking herself to be proficient enough to handle the whole affair successfully .The ironic humour lies in the contrast between what Emma thinks she will achieve and what she actually achieves as a result of her endeavors. It is, indeed, amusing to watch her solemn efforts to create opportunities for Mr. Elton and Harriet to meet and spend some time together. The most amusing portion in this whole account is the plans Emma employs to provide opportunities for Mr. Elton to have some time alone with Harriet for a private conversation with Harriet but apparently he feels no feeling to have any special talk with the girl. Emma, however, merely thinks that Mr. Elton is a slow lover and will take his...