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2007 Essay Contest

Winning Entries

Topic: Mystery and Danger in Emma

Students were asked to address one of the following questions.

  1. Emma is often identified as a forerunner of mystery novels because of the clues and revelations it contains, among them Jane Fairfax's secret engagement to Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley's long-unadmitted love for Emma. In addition to these crucial discoveries, this novel resolves a number of more minor mysteries (e.g., Harriet's parentage and Frank's trip to London for a haircut). Analyze the effect of one or more "minor mysteries" in Emma. Secrets that, in your view, Austen doesn't fully explain may be the most rewarding to explore.
  2. The novel Emma takes place entirely in the quiet village of Highbury, among settled country neighbors; readers might naturally expect to find descriptions of "safety" and "security" throughout the narrative. Surprisingly, events and emotions featuring "danger," "pain," and "risk" actually occur more frequently in the novel. Discuss the ways in which a character or characters from Emma pose danger to each other, avoiding the obvious (Emma's relationship to Harriet Smith, for example) in favor of the unexpected.

NOTE: Only first-place essays were published online prior to 2012.

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