The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the

The thing that helps me as a reader
understand the social status of both Emma and Harriet is that the characters
are both introduced separately. You get to know their individual personality,
their past, their family, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. It is even more
interesting then, when they are introduced to each other. As a reader, you
start to see how the characters see themselves in terms of social status based
on their interactions.

Emma is the prettiest and
most popular girl in town, with an abundant amount of wealth and privilege. Harriet
is beautiful but has no friends. To me, Harriet remains a mystery. Just because
she does not know who her parents are, it is assumed, especially by Emma, that
she is of the lower class. Emma is very high up in the social ladder and anybody
who is not at her level, might as well be the lowest of the low. Mrs. Goddard
thinks very highly of Harriet and her time at the local boarding school. To me,
I see Harriet as being one in her own world. She could be of high status at
school, but once she meets Emma, she is automatically inferior and continues to
act as so, because she knows no other way.

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Austen says, “As a walking companion,
Emma had early foreseen how useful she might find her” (26). Emma places
herself on a pedestal and automatically places Harriet in the lowest of the low
just because she does not showcase the same qualities as Emma. Therefore, Emma
strives to introduce Harriet to her world and to transform her since she
herself needs no more change or growth. Austen says that “The real evils, indeed, of
Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a
disposition to think a little too well of herself” (7). For a long time, Emma
has seen herself as perfect and so she takes on other people in her life as “projects,”
just like she did with her father when her mother died. Emma seemed interested
at first in Harriet because of how beautiful she is but now, does not seem in
the least bit impressed with Harriet’s intellectual level due to her inability
to hold a conversation. However, Harriet is not shy and willingly talks to Emma,
who seems flattered by how respectful Harriet is and how much Harriet admires her.

Austen says, “and a Harriet
Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a walk, would be a
valuable addition to her privileges. . . Altogether she was quite convinced of
Harriet Smith’s being exactly the young friend she wanted—exactly the
something which her home required” (26). You can see that Harriet takes any
chance she can to walk with Emma because she knows that being friends with Emma
could be good for her and her future. As so, Emma not only wants to be friends
with Harriet but needs to be. Harriet is her new project to distract her from
her personal life because this may be the most challenging task she has taken
on yet. Also, transforming Harriet will be fun for Emma because she will become
a higher status. She will become a woman that is worthy enough to marry an
upper-class man, and since Emma sees herself as the ultimate matchmaker, she
wants nothing more than to be friends with Harriet.