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The first publication of Emma was

as maturity and the coming of age

mocking tone toward the

and how this coincides with

protagonists heightened sense of

acceptable norms, values and

self-importance and shallow mind-

beliefs of

set. This will be explored further

over two hundred years ago, in

by analysing the different ways

the December of 1815. Written by

the two mediums apply this

Jane Austen, the story is based

around a wealthy young woman
named Emma and the trivial
social affairs she involves herself
in. The popularity of the novel has
led to many adaptations and
appropriations, one of them being
the 1995 hit film Clueless. This
appropriation explores themes
that also occur in the novel such

satirical element,
popular culture. Clueless
highlights that although times
have changes and technology has
progressed, the aspiration for

focusing mainly of the use of

young adults to be considered as

Narrative techniques and

socially and culturally relevant is

cinematic features.

still extremely important.

Following in the footsteps of
Emma, Clueless also adopts a

Heroine or hero?

I am going to take a
heroine whom no one
but myself will much
Before writing Emma, Jane Austen
set out to purposely create a
character that audiences would
find difficult to sympathise with.
Austen wrote, I am going to take
a heroine whom no one but
myself will much like (Austen via
Boyle:2011). This is true on many
levels as the heterodiegetic
narration opens with, Emma

Woodhouse, handsome, clever

highly of herself and is in fact

and rich (Austen:1994). The

quite shallow giving that two of

opening suggests that although

the adjectives used to describe

this description is factual, there is

her are in relation to money and

an underlying tone of disapproval

appearance. Austens aim to

from the narrator by the removal

create a protagonist that is

of the word is within the

dislikeable has been successful

sentence. It is therefore

though the use of heterodiegetic

understood by the audience that,

narration alongside an undertone

although the information given by

of sarcasm and mockery.

the narrator is factually accurate,

this is the superficial way that

But how has this been

adapted within clueless?

Emma Woodhouse perceives

herself - much to the dismay of
the narrator. The opening shows
that Emma thinks extremely

Clueless is a fun light hearted film

that follows Emma (known as
Cher) throughout her day to day

life at high school. Like the novel,

views herself. The use of Cher as

a light hearted mockery towards

the film also adopts a satirical

a first-person narrator is decisive

the protagonists inflated ego.

tone in regards to Cher and the

for the play of incongruities

dramas she faces within her life.

between verbal material and the

How is this disconnected

This satirical element is provided

images shown (Azerdo:2006). In

between what is said and

by the first person narrative of

other words, the narration

what is shown within the film?

Cher herself. but seriously I have

highlights a difference between

but seriously I have a way normal

a way normal life.i get up, brush

what the audience is shown

life.i get up, brush my teeth and

my teeth and pick out my school

though the visual aspects of the

pick out my school close

clothes. (Clueless:1995). The

film and the telling, though the

(Clueless:1995). The narration is

intragenic narrated voice over

viewpoint of Cher. The use of

paired with images of Cher picking

from Cher ironically shows that

narration in the original novel and

out her clothes on a not so

Cher is trying to sound humble

Clueless show that first person

normal way.

but at the same highlights the

accounts can be bias. Therefore,

disconnection between what she

the narration has been cleverly

is saying and how she actually

used in these mediums to support

character to be out of tune with

without risking solipsism (the

the majority of society.

imprisonment of oneself)
(Hawthorn:126). Free indirect

Austens Style.
On the surface the quote seems
to show the normalities of Chers
life but if you contrast this to the
images on the screen of her using
expensive technology that is not
readily available to normal
people, we can see that the
narrator is to an extent,
unreliable. Again, this supports
the humorous interpretation for
audiences who will find the

Prose fiction is a writing style that

is used to convey a sense of
realism within texts. The realistic
element comes from using
method of storytelling such as
exposition and dialog. Another
method used by authors that
portrays realism is of course free
indirect speech. Jane Austen is
thought of as a pioneer of this
narrative technique which allows
access to characters inner lives

speech is a third person

omniscient narrative viewpoint
that allows for the critique of
characters by adopting the
essence of a first person
narrative. For example Sorrow
came- a gentle s sorrow but not
at all in the shape of any
disagreeable consciousness
(Emma:1995:1). The essence of
the first person narrative in this
quotation is embedded into the
third person narration so that the

narrative techniques almost

such as the wealth and the beauty

become interlinked. Austen uses

and turns them on their head so

this technique throughout the

that Emma is made to look

novel to revel the characters

foolish. Emma all the while has no

thoughts. Free indirect speech is

understanding that the audience

also used in Emma so that the

is mocking her with the help of

audience can judge Emmas

the narrative style. Free indirect

actions though a third person.

speech has not been used in

Meaning that, the writing style

Clueless as the visual and

imbedded by Austen can be used

auditory medium make this style

to further add a sarcastic tone

of narrative impractical. However,

that again mocks Emmas

the same tones have been carried

overestimated view of herself. In

though in other methods. These

Emma the Free indirect speech

methods include aspects of the

takes the facts Emma wishes


people to know about herself,

This frame pokes fun at Cher and

her superficial materialistic ways
in order to correspond with the
style of free indirect speech. The
audience are made aware that
Cher values wealth and beauty,
and in keeping with the satirical
tone of the opening line of the
novel, Cher is being made to look
foolish. Surrounded by her vast

mountain of clothes Cher has

easy for the audience to relate the

Emma is shown to have an

been positioned on the floor with

character of Cher to the Character

inflated ego though narrative

the camera position higher than

of Emma. Both are handsome

techniques and this coincides with

her to show that her materialistic

and Silverstones impressive

the Authors objective to create a

lifestyle is actually quite shameful

ability to evoke a sense of being

character that audiences dislike.

and embarrassing. The audience

extremely superficial but also

But how has this manifested

at this point, are Looking down on

believing that she is in fact

within clueless?

Cher much like the third person

extremely selfless helps

omniscient narrator does

audiences make judgments on her

throughout the novel. Lading on

outlook and personality in

from this. Another method used to

accordance to the Free indirect

replace the free indirect style of

style associated with Austens

Austen is the use of an attractive


young and fresh face actress.

Alicia Silverstones innocent girl
next door look in the film makes it

Emma and her ego.

Within this frame cinematic

techniques have been used to

amplify the self-obsessed nature

has been shown in the adaptation

important. The interpretation this

of Cher. The camera has been

though the camera focalisation.

creates within audiences is that

position at the eye level of the

Most of the scenes within the film

Cher is a insincere person

students within the class. This

are externally focalised to show

because of her tendency to focus

physically shows Chers high

that Cher is the most important

on superficial and materialistic

social status that has been

person in her world. The external

items that help to boost her ego.

interpreted and adapted from the

focalisation highlights the self-

original Novel. On a slightly

obsessed outlook that she has.


different note, the focal point of

However, at some points within

The coming of age is a rite of

this particular frame is that of

the film there are internal

passage for many young men and

Cher, again drawing parallels

focalisations, for example, when

women around the world. Both

between the novel and the film

Cher is picking out her clothes

Emma and Clueless uses the

though the use of cinematic

within the opening scene. The

theme of maturity and self-

techniques. The character of

audience views the world though

revelation when the protagonists

Emma is the main focal point

Chers eyes when she considered

realise they have developed

throughout the narrative and this

something to be considered as

feelings for Mr Knightley (Josh in

Clueless). it all boiled down to

to terms with. We see this not

standing and both have a

one inevitable conclusion, I was

only within Chers character when

tendency to be self-obsessed. The

just totally

she finally admits to herself that

protagonists in both medias take

clueless( Cluless:1994). The

she is in love with Josh, but also

pity on a young Harriet Smith (Tie)

growth that comes with the

with the character of Tie. Tie

and attempt to make her a mini

acceptance of ones self is a

realised that following in Chers

replica of themselves. Both of the

struggle for many young adults

footsteps is not always best for

stories involve match making that

however trivial this may seem to

her and at the end of the film she

goes wrong and finally both of the

others. Clueless has successfully

start making her own decisions

protagonists from the novel and

incorporated the themes from

about what she likes and dislikes.

the film come to a realisation

Emma to show that the theme of

Audience interpretation.

before they have their happy

growing up transcends historical

There are many parallels that can

ending. However, there are many

barriers. The film shows that the

be drawn from Austens Emma

differences between the

coming of age and acceptance of

and film adaptation of clueless.

narratives that are open to

the self is a relevant issue that

For example, both involve a young

audience interpretation.

many adolescents have to come

woman who is of high social

Azerdo Stated that Clueless

interpreted in more than one way.

to be less than desirable, has

creates irony by intersecting past

Whilst the elements of satire and

become a timeless classic. So

and present, by alluding to Emma,

the mocking of the protagonists

much so, that adaptations and

and at the same time by

superficial ways are easily

appropriations have been made in

disguising, or denying, the

recognised though cinematic and

homage the well-established

allusion (245). This means that

narrative techniques, there is also

novel and author. The cultural

Due to the vast socio-historical

a deeper level of humour. This

and sociohistorical context of

and cultural differences between

added layer of depth and comedic

Emma is as relevant now as it was

the novel and the film, younger

value is understood by audience

two hundred years ago. This is

audiences who have watched

members who are aware of the

clearly highlighted in the modern

Clueless may not be aware of the

fact that the film is based on the

day film Clueless. It seems that

references and parallels the film

novel Emma.

although the mediums of

shares with Emma.

To concluded, Jane Austens

entertainment are changing and

The allusion and dismissing of

innovate use of free indirect

continue to change, the coming of

allusionas understood by Azerdo

speech, alongside the character of

age theme coupled with a nave

means that the film can be

a young woman who is considered

character, is a storyline that

audience can relate to and

therefore, have enjoyed
throughout the decades.

Austine, J. (1994). Emma.Wordsworth Addition
Azerdo, G. (2006). From Emma to Clueless: Ironic
Representations of Jane Austen.

Boylr, L. (2001). Jane Austens brothers. [Online]. Available

from: www.janeausten.co.uk

Cluless (1995). Directed By Amy Heckerling. 97 Mins.

Paromount Pictures. [Video:DVD]

Hawthorne, J.(2005). Studying the Novel.