Emma Argue: Freedom of Speech and the School Environment


Emma and Principal Figgins’ confrontation raises important issues related to freedom of speech within school settings, particularly how to balance students’ rights with those of principal Figgins to foster an ideal learning atmosphere.

Austen displays impressive debating skills here as she successfully persuades Knightley to support her argument against judging people based on superficial and arbitrary social values. It’s an image of sad, disappointed confidence against bold, lively confusion.

The Situation

Austen’s use of free indirect discourse helps bridge the distance between reader and protagonist. Her choice of phrases like “she considered it” and “Emma imagined” immerses us into Emma’s thoughts and the characters’ minds.

By shifting the conversation away from her refusal, Emma exhibits some remarkable debating skills and quick maneuvering – something Regency female brains would normally not be capable of doing. At the same time, she undermines attitudes prescribed in 18th century conduct books while challenging existing assumptions and standards about relationships, marriage, class and power.

If you have seen Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and Johnny Flynn as Knightley, then you are familiar with its incredible vocal dynamics during an argument scene involving Principal Figgins escorting Emma out of assembly raises important questions about open dialogue in schools as well as effective conflict resolution techniques.

The Subject

With her refusal to join in matchmaking, Emma has managed to divert this argument away from where it was heading and redirect it in her favor – quickly devising her strategy in mere seconds. This strategy is pure Austen; forcing readers to examine assumptions and expectations regarding class lines, gender roles, power relationships and relationships between two individuals.

Emma’s disruption of an assembly exposes a tension between student rights and maintaining order in educational environments, and Principal Figgins asserting his authority by upholding school policies.

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The Vocal Dynamics

The disagreement between Emma and Principal Figgins provided a fascinating case study in education, emphasizing the value of student voice and advocacy. Furthermore, this controversy provided schools with an opportunity to assess their ideologies, policies, and methods of handling conflict management.

Music plays an essential part in humanizing Emma even when she acts unethically or unfairly. For instance, her opening scene features an Italian operatic duet to emphasize Emma’s air of superiority over others and make clear why she sees herself as a big fish in a small pond.

But the soundtrack also helps demonstrate that she is an individual with feelings, which is displayed through her regret for her behavior with Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. At these points, music evokes these emotions by using a slow legato line in minor key with staccato notes reminiscent of predator/prey relationships – creating an interesting juxtaposition against their displayed emotions.

The Conclusion

Emma Argue with Principal Figgins must reevaluate how she approaches relationships after her disastrous outburst on Box Hill, including her relationship with Harriet Smith and how she interacts with Figgins as principal of Box Hill School. Their confrontation provides an interesting case study in freedom of speech, conflict resolution and meeting all stakeholders needs simultaneously.

Knightley possesses strong and clear convictions. He advocates against the status quo and for a society which values inner character over superficial, arbitrary qualities; further, he opposes strict social rules and gender roles advised in 18th century conduct books as being ideal for both men and women.

He’s up against Emma, an ambitious woman who uses these very arguments against him but then manipulates them for her own selfish gain by twisting them around in knots of condescension and misapplied influence – an impressive display of debating skills that Regency women generally were forbidden to employ.