The question of whose voice is speaking, the narrator's or the heroine's, is central in Jane Austen's Emma (1814), for although the two voices sound similar at points, the story that the heroine tells is but an incomplete part of the narrator's larger story. While Emma tells the story of her perceptions as they occur to her at the time, the narrator is telling the story of the gradual growth of Emma's consciousness. As the novel progresses, Emma's voice begins to resemble the narrator's in its ability to mix with another's consciousness. Her narrated monologues begin to incorporate others' voices, almost as if she has learned the narrative technique that Austen herself uses. Emma's voice, likes the narrator's, displays by the novel's end the ability to mix others' voices into her own; she gains the ability to "see" herself both from the inside and the outside. Emma's ability to learn narrative "skills" such as the fusing of other voices into her own represents the true mark of her maturity. In a sense, Emma learns what every good novel reader ultimately learns: how to see beyond her own mental confines by imitating the narrator's ability to incorporate others' consciousnesses into her own.
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