Full version Plot Structure And Setting In Emma

Plot Structure And Setting In Emma

This print version free essay Plot Structure And Setting In Emma.

Category: English

Autor: reviewessays 25 March 2011

Words: 1222 | Pages: 5

Describe two of the following key concepts in the study of narrative and apply them to the analysis of one of the set novels: time and order: plot and structure: setting.

Narratives are stories about a series of events, usually in sequence and often with one event causing another (Ways of Reading p211). Within the study of narrative there are several key concepts such as time and order, plot and structure and setting, all of which enable the reader to follow the series of events and gain a better understanding of the story. For the purpose of this essay we will examine the main features of both plot and structure and setting. This will enable us to have a better understanding of these key concepts and enable us to move on and apply them to the analysis of Jane Austen’s novel Emma.

In describing Plot and Structure a simple description would be to say that plot is what happens in a novel and structure is the novel’s overall organization. In the study of narrative structure can be broken down into different types, form, themes and plot. Form is how the novel can be divided into chapters, sections or frame narrative. Chapters and sections have several functions within a novel, for example chapters tell the reader when they can pause. Sections however are more significant and show changes in time, point of view and theme. Themes can give a solid foundation to the structure of a text when they are repeated throughout. This is also seen with the use of images and symbols, such as the lighthouse in Virginia Wolfe’s To The Lighthouse. Plot within structure organizes the key events into an order, depending on the text this could be linear or anti linear.

The plot of a novel is the narrative and development of the story. The main features of plot within narrative are conflict and closure. All conflicts revolve around the arguments of the protagonist and the antagonist due to their differing views or feelings. The closure is when the narrative resolves the conflict. This often happens at the end of a novel but not always (Narrative Plot and Structure Handout). Closure or the lack of closure can cause suspense or surprise within a novel due to the uncertainties that it creates. On occasions we find the absence of closure, this can be used to frustrate readers’ expectations or represent reality. Having described the key concept of Plot and Structure we move now to the concept of setting.

Setting in the study of narrative is often seen, as being a less important concept, however being less crucial does not mean it is not important. The setting is crucial to the creation of a complete novel as it helps determine characters conflicts, aspirations and destinies. This is shown by the places in which characters appear, their social context, customs and beliefs and the atmosphere this creates (Setting in Prose Fiction Handout). Narratives have different types of setting such as social, historical and realistic. Social settings often show a clash between individuals and their social background. A narrative with a historical setting depicts which time it is set, and this can have an effect on the characters actions and behaviour. Realistic settings are those that create verisimilitude with their long-winded and often objective descriptions. All these types of setting help to reinforce the themes of the novel. Having described both Setting and Plot and Structure we shall go on to apply them to the analysis of Jane Austen’s Emma.

We have seen how structure of a novel can be broken down into different types such as form. Emma has been divided into fifty-five chapters. Each chapter is based around a key event, for example chapter four is based around Emma’s first meeting of Mr Martin and deciding he would not be suitable for Harriet to marry due to his lack of social status (Austen Jane, 1816, p20 – 28). Emma is typical of a realist text because of the structure of the chapters, but also because the opening chapter provides us with a complete background of the characters:

She was the youngest of the two daughters … been mistress of his house from a very early period (p5).

Having a coherent beginning gives the reader a clear understanding of what is happening.

On many occasions the structure of Emma is seen through the repetition of themes such as marriage and society:

I have reason to think’ he replied ‘that Harriet Smith will soon have an

offer of marriage and from a most unexceptional quarter’ (ch 8 p46)

While he lived it must only be an engagement’ (ch 50 p328)

Having a recurring theme throughout the novel enables Austen to underpin the structure. All the events in Emma happen in a chronological order thus creating a linear structure.

Earlier we saw how conflicts revolved around the arguments of the protagonist and the antagonist. In Emma, Emma Woodhouse acts as both protagonists, as indicated by the title, and antagonist for she lives in a world of self-delusion. The plot aims at correcting the vanity and self delusion of Emma but this is not seen until the end of chapter forty three when Mr Knightly forces Emma into self analysis:

This is not pleasant to you Emma – and it is very far from pleasant

to me; but I must, I will, -I will tell you truths while I can

It is from here onwards that Emma faces reality. The plot then attempts to resolve the entanglements that her misguided efforts have caused. This leads to the closure where all events come together and the three couples plan to marry, very typical of a realist text.

We move to the concept of Setting. The physical setting within Emma is the fictional village of Highbury. However in Emma it is the social settings rather than the physical setting that stand out. The social world of Highbury is highlighted with us finding out more about the characters property and professions. It is inside the homes of the characters where most of the action takes place. Within Emma we also see the use of realistic settings.

Mr Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family which for the past two or three generations had been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good education, … and had satisfied an active cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of his country, then embodied.(p12)

Austen’s use of long-winded descriptions of social context creates verisimilitude, which is typical of a realist novel. It also shows how 19th century texts draw setting in with social class. Overall the settings in Emma often reinforce the themes of the novel in general, reflecting the tone of the action.

At the beginning of this essay we described the key concepts of plot and structure and setting within the study of narrative. In applying these to the analysis of Jane Austen’s novel Emma we were able to gain a better understanding of the story. We can also conclude by saying that both of these key concepts are crucial to the creation of a complete novel.