Critical Analysis of Gallantry in Emma by Jane Austen Free Essay

Different Types of Gallantry in Emma by Jane Austen and Their Influence on the Main Character


In the novel Emma written by Jane Austen, a famous English writer of the 18th century, special attention is paid to the theme of gallantry. The protagonist Emma Woodhouse, who is represented as  “handsome, clever, and rich” and who “had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her”, allows the reader to assess the various types of gallantry (Austen 55). The term gallantry can be defined as courtesy and respect of men towards women, including the acts of chivalry and courtship. Practically all male characters in this novel, namely Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, demonstrate their gallant behaviours in different ways, making Emma think about their type of gallantry. Emma’s take on their type of gallantry depends on her personal experience, moral education, and intellectual skills. Thesis statement: In Austen’s novel Emma, men are presented in a position of power over women, therefore, their types of gallantry are not taken by Emma as genuine, excluding Mr. Knightley’s gallantry type, which is based on morality and intellectuality.

To start with, Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father, is represented as a generous and well-mannered man who knows how to be gallant toward women, but who tends to emphasize women’s weaknesses. He is a symbol of masculinity, because his actions and decisions are shaped by his social status and his influential position in his family. As an aged character, he is sensible and affected by his emotions. He is concerned with his health and household issues. He possesses the so-called “tenderest spirit of gallantry” (Austen 63). It makes him look like a Burkean knight. At the same time,  Mr. Woodhouse’s authority leads to tyranny, when he begins to dictate what his guests can eat, and when he criticizes Emma’s behaviour.

Also, there is another character Mr. Churchill, who demonstrates his own type of gallantry, which is concluded in his chivalry combined with dandyism. He is characterized as a true gentleman due to his complimentary approach that affects women’s feelings. Emma realises that she cannot permit Churchill to demonstrate the freedom of being gallant to her, because she does not trust him. He is an unreliable person who is interested in improving his own life. His personality traits are developed to support deception through word play. This male character is able to play Emma and Jane off against each other. His type of gallantry is not supported by Emma. He praises Emma at the expense of Jane. This fact means that he does not take care of women’s feelings. He is blamed not only by others, but also by himself for not respecting Jane’s feelings.

Besides, Mr. Elton, the local vicar, is also represented as a gallant knight, but his type of gallantry is more straightforward than that of other male characters. Initially, Emma considers that

his patterns of gallantry are the best. “I think a young man might be very safely recommended to take Mr. Elton as a model. Mr. Elton is good humoured, cheerful, obliging, gentle” (Austen 28). The main basis of his true love depends on his personality traits that contribute to performance of gallantry. He talks sentimentally, but his actions are supported by retinal decisions. For example, he proposes wealthy Emma to become his wife instead of the impoverished Harriet Smith. His morality is linked to his chivalry and social position.

Finally, Mr. Knightley, her sister’s brother-in-law, has a huge impact on Emma as a protagonist, because this man sets certain standards on gallantry. He is represented as a truth-teller who stands in contrast to Mr. Elton, the man focused on word-playing.  Emma considers that Mr. Knightley is “not a gallant man, but he is a very humane one” (Austen 215). He can not make fun of a woman who is in love with him. Mr. Knightley says in one of the scenes, “Emma knows I never flatter her” because he is an honest man (Austen 59). He values truth and sincerity in women. Also, this male character is strong enough to judge others. He says, “one man’s style must not be the rule of the another’s” (Austen 376). This fact means that his type of gallantry is unique because he lacks playfulness, but values honesty.

In general, Emma’s take on the type of gallantry demonstrated by male characters depends on her perception of these personalities. Her father, Mr. Woodhouse possesses the type of gallantry that is similar to courtesy combined with mindless convention. He does not want to change his personality traits, because he enjoys his manipulation. Other male characters are less manipulative, although Emma does not support their actions and decisions toward women as well. The only male character in the novel that can serve as model of gallantry to Emma is Mr. Knightley, the man whom she finally has fallen in love with.

Thus, it is necessary to conclude that in the novel Emma, Austen demonstrates different types of gallantry through representation of several male characters. Emma, as a protagonist in the novel,  provides an opportunity to explore their types of gallantry in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of male personalities. Mr. Woodhouse, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley are different in terms of their relation to women. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Elton are focused on using fine complimentary approach, while Mr. Woodhouse is based on scrupulous politeness. Mr. Knightley’ gallantry type is an example of a combination of morality and intellectuality.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Emma. Broadview Press, 2004.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: February 4, 2023] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]
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