Emma: ‘the operation of the same system in another way’
The question of the nature of feminine agency cuts to the core of Austen’s work, but is expressed in a distinctive way in her last two complete narratives, Emma (1816) and Persuasion (1818). We find her late heroines in opposing circumstances: the privileged Emma, who rarely finds her will crossed either by an indulgent and weak father or a loving governess, and whose economic independence makes marriage unnecessary to her; and the already static Anne, whose inert condition at the opening of her narrative of revival is reinforced by the absence of her direct voice. We hear Emma speak early, but Anne is only indirectly registered by the narrator until a passing reference to the navy brings her into the present of the scene: ‘here Anne spoke’.394 The movement of Persuasion turns Anne’s stasis into a revised concept of freedom in its final un-mooring of her character from its ‘landed’ determinants: ‘She gloried in being a sailor’s wife.’395 This contrasts directly with Emma, when this is read as a study in the implications of ungrounded female will.
KeywordsExpense Smoke Nash Defend Heroine
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