Emma Woodhouse unites all the striking qualities of the aristocratic class in English society; combining her qualities of cleverness, beauty, class-consciousness, and superficiality, she undoubtedly represents the upper class of Highbury. Initially presented with a photograph of Emma, the protagonist on the front cover, Austen allows the reader to associate several characteristics with Emma solely based upon the illustration. Emma's positive facial expression implies her clever and assertive state of mind. Furthermore, her vibrant colored gown consists of gold and red, which clearly signify the right state or home Emma comes from simultaneously with the red color of royalty juxtaposed with the gold tone. Depicted in a neat uplifted style, Emma's hair allows her pale and pretty face to be the focal point of the photograph. The reader's preconceived ideas of this character are reaffirmed in the language that is used in the opening paragraph in the novel. "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress of vex her. "(Pg. 5) Emma is very beautiful, intellectual, and wealthy and lives in a very affluent household with her father. Her physical description is very ironic considering the fact that she is one of the most gorgeous women in Highbury, yet sees no reason to get married. .
Emma is very conceited and arrogant and remains so throughout the novel; as it seems, only one character has the nerve to deflate this radiant young woman's ego and put her in her place. Elegance, therefore, far from being an antiquated notion, was used to describe a person who truly knew how to behave in society with ease and honesty. Despite her social standing and intelligence at the beginning of the story, Emma is not introduced as having elegance.