Societal status was an important part of the regency times and plays a very important role in Emma. Clearly, there are different social classes and a line is drawn separating the upper class and lower class. Jane Austen views of the regency times were clearly expressed through Emma. Although Austen acknowledges the presence of social distinction between different social classes, she believes that the value of a person cannot be measured through their social status as it is an exterior quality. What truly matters is the interior quality of a person and that is what ultimately determines the character and relationship of a person possess.
From the beginning of the novel, Jane Austen introduces the Woodhouse family, which provides the understanding of what the upper class is. There are a few social divides and the Woodhouse and Knightley families happen to be at the top of the social hierarchy and can be considered as the finest and most elite members of society. Being at the pinnacle of society, Emma is far more distinguished than most of the other members of Highbury and she is deemed as “handsome, (…) very little to distress or vex her.” (Vol 1, Chapter 1) This gives the impression Emma’s life is almost perfect in every way and that she has the liberty to do as she pleases. There is a large emphasis on Emma’s social status from the start and throughout the novel, a character is always comes in along with a description of his or her social status. The existence of social differences is portrayed through many parts of the novel. Some of which are, the debate on Emma and Harriet being friends, Mr. Elton despising Harriet and marrying Ms Hawkins, Emma’s persuading Harriet not to marrying Mr. martin and lastly Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax having to engage on the sly.
Social classes exist and play an important role in the lives of individuals. austen displays this in Emma through the aspect of friendship, marriage and the character of an individual.