The novel Emma, by Jane Austen portrays a young woman whose time is occupied by trivial pastimes, mainly by the great amusement of attempting to guide the marital destinies of those around her. Emma presumes to know what is best for other people, and in pursuit of her goals, will even act contrary to her true knowledge of other people's feelings. Throughout the novel, Emma's perceptions are constantly fueled by her imagination, fueled by the thought of all the potential matches that she can make. Raised to think so well of herself, she has such a high opinion of her own worth that it blinds her to the perspectives of others. .
Emma's perceptions are most notably amiss when dealing with Harriet, a young woman of unknown parentage, whom Emma befriends and attempts to remake in her own image. Ignoring the gaping differences in their respective fortunes and stations in life, Emma convinces herself that Harriet should look as high as she herself might for a husband. Emma stokes the fires of Harriet's imagination and transforms her strong feelings for Mr. Martin into feelings for Mr. Elton. She refers to Mr. Martin as "inferior," "vulgar," and "illiterate," (49) disregarding Harriet's obvious feelings for him. Emma perceives to know what is best for other people, yet acts against her awareness of their feelings. When helping Harriet write a letter of refusal to Robert Martin, Emma senses that "if the young man had come in her way at that moment, he would have been accepted after all" (50). Emma goes on to highlight the good qualities of Mr. Elton so that Harriet can see how poorly Mr. Martin measures up. Due to Emma's endorsement of Mr. Elton, Harriet imagines feelings for him which become so real she can not get him out of her mind.
Emma's knack for manipulating peoples" lives and deceiving herself are strongly evident in chapter six. While drawing a picture of Harriet, Emma is satisfied that Harriet is growing very fond of Mr.