Blurring the Lines Between Captive and Master in Emma’s Mrs. Elton
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Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park sparked discussion about slavery and what Austen’s views were on the institution. Her subsequent novel, Emma, also delved into the realm of slavery. According to Paul Pickrel, the two novels are considered the “most unlike” of any of the novels published during Austen’s lifetime (Pickrel 135). While there are major differences between Emma and Mansfield Park, Pickrel argues in his article, “Emma as Sequel” that there are more similarities in between the novels in terms of character traits and plot events than differences, enough for him to call Emma a sequel to Mansfield Park. I will be extending Pickrel’s argument to include the discussion of slavery in both novels as another point of similarity. Slavery is not merely discussed or alluded to in Emma through the depiction of Miss Hawkins or the conversation between Jane Fairfax and Mrs. Elton over Jane wanting to be a governess. It is in fact pointedly alluded to elsewhere as well, notably a scene in Emma which has escaped prior notice in the literature, the Donwell Abbey strawberry picking scene. I argue that because Mansfield Park discusses its major theme, slavery, through Fanny Price, Emma rightly can be seen as a sequel that continues that discussion through Mrs. Elton and this particular overlooked scene.