An Interpretation of Jane Austen’s Emma by Lacan’s Theory of Mirror Stage

Yechun ZHANG


Emma is honored as the most mature work by Jane Austen. It centers on Emma Woodhouse, the heroine, and reveals the complicated love relationships among Frank Churchill and Harriet Smith, Mr. Elton and Jane Fairfax, and Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith. This thesis intends to probe into the inner world of Emma and uncover her intricate feeling of match-making for others to self love seeking from the perspective of Lacan’s Mirror Stage and Three-Order Theory. From the theory, a number of crises among Emma and her father, Miss Taylor, and her other friends arise, which all contribute to her loss of complete ego. The split Emma, like a new-born infant, returns to the front of the mirror and begins to see her split ego in it. The Imaginary is the first realm of Lacan’s three Orders. The illusions from Harriet’s obedience, Frank’s deliberate deceiving, and the subtle relationship between Harriet and Mr. Knightley all lead Emma to irresistible self-seeking. Emma seeks out her ego under the Law in the Symbolic Order. In the constraint of Phallus, Emma eventually realizes her true emotion to Mr. Knightley and abandons the thought of match-making for Harriet. She breaks through the obstacles of herself in the Symbolic at last. After undergoing this self recognition, Emma reaches the Real Order, the last realm of ego seeking. Everything before all helps her sublimation in the Real.


Emma; Mirror stage theory; The imaginary; The symbolic; The real; Lacan’s theory of mirror stage

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