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Word Count: 1,879
The exploration of different kinds of selfishness gives Emma considerable depth of meaning beneath its sic comic surface and also contributes to that comedy Jane Austens characters inhabit a hyper-polite society where admirable displays of selflessness and concern for others are often the result of characters self-interest and what is right for them they consider right for everyone Though many characters such as Mr Woodhouse Mrs Elton and Mr John Knightley share this characteristic it is most important in Emma and Mr Knightley Because the novel is filtered chiefly through their perspectives it portrays a comically confused world in which social virtue and selfishness are indistinguishable when they help these characters opposites when they do them harm and worthless in their own right Mr Woodhouse being Emmas father doubtless influenced her views of others He is an invalid or at least a hypochondriac who provides a comic foil for Emma as he presses his opinions upon everyone Because gruel is good for him all the guests should have some he is shocked that his grandchildren want to play with knives he consistently calls Emmas governess who has just married Mr Weston poor Miss Taylor 18 not because she made an unhappy match but because in moving she bereft him of company Emma gently corrects him observing that Mr Weston is such apleasantman that he thoroughly deserves a good wife 9 but as children often do Emma notices her fathers faults without realizing that she has adopted them She approves of Miss Taylors marriage not least because she considers it her own doing Emma enjoys nothing more than matchmaking for her friends and once Miss Taylor has wed Emma is restless and lonely Lacking a hobby she befriends Harriet Smith a young and well-supported girl of mysterious parentage and brings her into society Emma thinks that she is doing a great good to Harriet but primarily she is amusing herself and flattering her own ego with
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