Jane Austen's 1815 classic novel 'Emma' appropriated into Amy Heckerling's 1995 film 'Clueless', provides an insight on the drastic changes in societal values shaped by their changing contexts. Austen challenges Regency society's attitude towards the oppressed position of women in marriage and the factors which segregate society into distinct classes forming a stratified hierarchy. The transformation into 20th Century America reveals the empowerment of women in marriage and the fluid social structure associated with overcoming class barriers.
Throughout the novel 'Emma', Austen critiques Regency society's expectation for women to be married to a man of equal or higher status and wealth. Prior to the Married Women's Property Act 1870, ownership of wealth belonged entirely to the husband, showing women's dependence on matrimony for monetary benefits. Austen challenges this notion of profitable marriage through Mr Knightley's imperative tone to choose suitable marriage partners based on personal compatibility in warning Emma "let Harriet marry Robert Martin". Dialogue employed between Emma in "If I were to marry, I must expect to repent it so" and Harriet Smith's surprised tone "it is so odd to hear a woman talk so!" satirises women's conformity to marriage. Society's disapproval of courtship between a class disparity is reflected in the hyperbole "the infinite mortification of Mr and Mrs Churchill", followed by Austen's authorial intrusion "it was an unsuitable connection, and did not produce much happiness." This is juxtaposed to Austen's approval of Mr Weston's second marriage to Miss Taylor in "his second must show him how delightful a well-judging and truly amiable woman could be, and must give him the pleasantest proof." The repetition of "must" creates certainty that his second marriage will bring happiness as he is fulfilling the social expectations of marrying within a similar social circle.