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Jane Austens classic is not merely a story of Emma Woodhouses journey of self discovery nor is it just a tale of country romance but rather Emma chronicles the anxiety of its time the destabilization of the classes As the Industrial Revolution allowed for the democratization of money more and more individuals were able to climb the social ladder in England as never before With the formation of the new middle class came the blurring of class distinction and the drive for the bourgeois identity crisis With so many people gaining access to such signs of prosperity as clothing furnishings and the means to move farther away from the city the ability to distinguish the new middle class from the gentry was becoming difficult From the characterization of the Eltons Coles Martins and Sucklings to the geography of the setting Emma reveals bourgeois societys fear of infiltration Perhaps Austens best characterization of the nouveau riche comes in the form of Mr and Mrs Cole A very good sort of peopleof low origin in trade and only moderately genteel the Coles have managed to improve their means quite considerably in a short amount of time to become in fortune and style of living second only to the family at Hartfield 132 Emma is particularly offended by their upward mobility and is determined to refuse their invitation to a dinner party The Coles were very respectable in their own way but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them 132 It is only after Emma realizes that all of her friends will be attending the party that she elects not to exercise the power of refusal 132 but rather to accept her invitation thereby further facilitating the amalgamation of the classes One of the more interesting illustrations of the dismantling hierarchy of the classes is Austens choice of setting for
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