Discuss Austin's use of Parties and Social Events as turning points in the novel. How do the Christmas Eve Dinner at Randalls, the dinner at the Coles and the dinner party at Hartfield serve as critical moments that help the reader to see Emma's growing self awareness?.
Throughout Emma, parties and social events are used widely as turning points in the novel. Social occasions are a vital part of rural Highbury life in Emma, as they are used to further the plot and give an otherwise unseen insight into the depth of different characters. Due to the uncommon occurrence of social events in Highbury, they are described in great detail and given a vast importance in Emma. Also, through analysis of the progressive social occasions of the novel, Emma's growth in maturity and increased self-awareness can be observed. .
The Christmas Eve dinner at Randalls is the first social occasion of grand importance. In the build up to the dinner, Emma is warned by Mr John Knightly of Mr Elton's "great deal of good-will towards" herself, and that her manners towards him are "encouraging". Despite John Knightly's advice to "regulate her behaviour accordingly", Emma's stubbornness and occupation by her own scheming causes her to ignore his advice. Emma's failure to pay any attention to the wise advice of her brother in law at this point is a good indication of her immaturity. (p100-102).
Throughout the dinner party, Mr Elton pays intense attention to Emma and it begins to cross her mind that her brother in law may have been right. However, her belief that Mr Elton is "transferring his affections from Harriet" to herself (p107), subsequently highlights her lack of comprehension of the situation. This Chapter also indicates Emma's ignorance, through the mention of Frank Churchill. Her cherished thoughts of marriage to him, despite never having met him and knowing almost nothing on his character, denote her naivety on the topic of marriage.