Emma the Enigma: An INTJ Character Study

tumblr_muw8uh8QNg1qijnxzo2_250            Emma Woodhouse, introduced in the opening line of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel Emma, is “handsome, clever, and rich”, yet despite this deceptively basic description, she is considered one of the most complex heroines in literature (3). In fact, Jane Austen herself seemed to be the only one to truly understand her, claiming that she was “going to take a heroine to whom no one but [herself] will much like” (qtd. in Steven Marcus 23). But what makes the baffling Miss Woodhouse such a multifaceted character? One popular trend in psychology, the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, may provide an answer. The Myers-Briggs test seeks to classify individuals as introverted or extraverted (I or E), intuitive or sensory (N or S), thinking or feeling (F or P), and judging or perceiving (J or P), combining to form a four-letter code summarizing and providing insight into the general personality tendencies of that particular person (MyersBriggs.org). The most unusual combination of these traits in women is INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging. Because of the rareness of this combination among women, with INTJ females only making up an estimated 0.8% of the population, it is not surprising that a literary character of this personality archetype, such as Emma Woodhouse, would be considered complex (16personalities.com).

The first pair of personality traits addressed by the Myers-Briggs indicator relate to how an individual approaches the world. In other words, is this person introverted, maintaining an internal focus, or extraverted, tending to focus on his or her surroundings? Many readers immediately assume that because Emma is socially active, she must be an extravert. However, evidence from the novel implies that her focus

Poor Emma, alone among the painfully extroverted.
Poor Emma, alone among the painfully extroverted.

is actually more internal. In one scene, while visiting the village with friends, Emma stands apart from the group to daydream. The text reads, “a mind lively and at ease can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer” (210). This demonstrates that, although with others and in the midst of a social hotspot, Emma prefers the company of her own mind and often retreats deep into her private thoughts.  According to the official Myers-Briggs site, those who lean toward introversion are often seen as “reflective” and are “comfortable doing things on their own” (MyersBriggs.com). Emma here certainly is comfortable in her own mind and content to spend her time in reflection rather than interaction and, thus, this scene indicates her true nature as an introvert, as does her reaction to Mr. Knightley’s proposal of marriage later in the novel. Austen writes that “[Emma] wanted to be alone. Her mind was in a state of flutter and wonder…and till she had… talked to herself and … reflected, she could be fit for nothing” (429). Whenever something as exciting as a marriage proposal occurs in her life, Emma’s first response is to withdraw to ponder it alone, a distinctly introverted tendency. Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book, Quiet, describes introverts as “people who are in their heads too much” and here Emma definitely fits this standard, making the first letter in her Myers-Briggs combination an “I” (ThePowerofIntroverts.com). Within the social world of balls, tea parties, and group outings found within Jane Austen’s novels, it is surprising that one of her most famous heroines would be an introvert. Therefore, this first trait already implies that Emma’s personality is the cause of her complexity as a character.

The second set Myers-Briggs personality types accounts for how an individual processes and understands information; is this person a sensor, preferring facts and experience, or an intuitive, tending to favor big-picture concepts and idealistic dreams. As the novel Emma progresses, the character Emma is painted as heavily intuitive, imagining perfect futures and grand schemes that fall short of her expectations,

Because no essay on Emma would be complete without a Clueless quote.
Because no essay on Emma would be complete without a Clueless quote.

especially in the area of romance. Emma plans throughout much of the novel to make a wonderful match for a friend of hers, Harriet. However, the future she creates for Harriet never becomes a reality as Emma often overlooks fundamental details that a sensory-prone person would have kept in mind. She is described in chapter sixteen as admitting to herself that once “she had taken up the idea, she supposed, [she had] made everything bend to it” (120). Her habit of focusing on idealistic plans and ignoring necessary details and flaws in these plans is evidenced in this quote. In her essay “The Dilemma of Emma: Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Values”, Karin Jackson writes that Emma “is a victim of her own illusions and creates a world of her own fancy, but it is not the real world.” Miss Woodhouse lives in an idealistic world built by her intuition and fostered by her complete lack of sense. She fits the standard of the Myers-Briggs indicator as an intuitive due to her preference of the imaginative and abstract over the tried and true. Being intuitive alone is not rare, but combined with introversion, as well as the next two traits that she possesses, it lends to Emma’s overall complexity.

As Emma acts as a matchmaker and daydreamer throughout her story, it would seem logical to assume that she relies more on emotion than reason. However, on the third Myers-Briggs type, feeling versus thinking, Emma appears to be more inclined toward thinking. When Emma and Mr. Knightly profess their love for one another, Emma finds herself in “an exquisite flutter of happiness” but also recognizes that

This is an good example of how "thinkers" such as Emma process relationships.
This is an good example of how “thinkers” such as Emma process relationships.

it was “such happiness, moreover, as she believed must still be greater when the flutter should have passed away” (393). Although Emma loves the joy she feels in this moment, she recognizes that she will be much happier once the “flutter” of emotion has calmed into rational thought, evidencing her preference of thinking over feeling. According to 16Personalities.com, INTJ personalities such as Emma “do feel, and deeply”, but these individuals maintain a steady mental state of processing using logic rather than simply acting according to feeling, just as Emma does when she anticipates fuller satisfaction in the settling of her dancing heart into calm levelheadedness. This is not the expected personality of a matchmaker, especially not one of a Jane Austen novel, making Emma an even more unconventional character.

The final of the four pairs of personality types, as classified by the Myers-Briggs Indicator, addresses how an individual approaches decision making: either a person is judging, desiring to act strategically and logically, or perceiving, preferring to live spontaneously and in the present. Emma is obviously a judging austensummpage_1645706ccharacter, as shown by her elaborate planning and reaction to events that do not go according to her expectations. After Mr. Knightley proposes to her, Emma feels that she is living in “the happiest dream”, yet she sets aside her current bliss to plan for the future (393). Rather than immediately marrying her love, she takes time to consider the effect this union would have on her father and home, making sure that every variable is accounted for before she gives Knightley a final answer. The novel states that Emma suffers a “sleepless night… [with] very serious points to consider”, further revealing her inherent need to plan rather than act in the moment (394). In this instance, Emma does exactly what those familiar with the Myers-Briggs Indicator would expect her to do as an INTJ; she approaches romance “the way they [INTJs] do with most situations: they compose a series of calculated actions with a predicted end goal- a healthy long-term relationship” (16personalities.com). Emma’s judging trait is also demonstrated in her social interactions, of which she always seeks to be in control. For example, when she is invited to a party at a lower-class family’s home, she resolves to snub them as she “had made up her mind how to meet this presumption so many weeks before it appeared” (188). Emma, as shown in her determination to reject the invitation, exhibits her tendency to judge rather than perceive, treating her life and especially social interactions as “a giant chess board” of which she desires to “maintain control” (16personalities.com).  As she plans her next move in life, Emma reveals herself to possess a judging personality rather than the more relaxed perceiving personality. Therefore, this, combined with her other traits to complete her code as an INTJ, contributes to her overall uniqueness and intricacy as a character.

INTJs, those who are classified as introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging by the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, form the rarest combination of the basic traits identified by modern personality psychology. These individuals are described as difficult to understand or predict because they “live by glaring contradictions” and can simultaneously be “the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics” (16personalities.com). Emma Woodhouse, the title character of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, matches this description perfectly. Her pleasure in solitary reflection, focus on ideal dreams, preference for conscience pondering, and need for settled plans are all basic characteristics of an INTJ personality. Therefore, since Emma can be classified as the rarest and most enigmatic Myers-Briggs combination, it is no wonder that she is hailed as one of the most complex heroines in English literature.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Emma. N.p.: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004. Print.

Cain, Susan. “Manifesto.” The Power of Introverts RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

“INTJ Relationships.” 16Personalities. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

Jackson, Karin. “Karin Jackson.” Karin Jackson. Jane Austen Society of North America, Summer 2000. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

Marcus, Steven. “Introduction.” Introduction. Emma. By Jane Austen. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

“The Myers & Briggs Foundation – MBTI® Basics.” The Myers & Briggs Foundation – MBTI® Basics. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2015.

On Senioritis (and also brownies)

Upon entering this year, I thought that I was prepared to face that dread combination of restlessness, fatigue, and frustration that has been plaguing high school seniors since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of secondary education). I was wrong and realize now, having forsaken productivity for a few hours to breathe for the first time since winter break, that senioritis is worse than I could ever have predicted.

Granted, I am not ditching school, I still do my homework, and remain relatively active. However, I cannot shake off that feeling of restless tension that I know everyone else in the class of 2015 is feeling. But there is hope! Not to sound like some radio-show therapist, but recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Pretty much.
Pretty much.

So what causes senioritis? In a word, EVERYTHING. We are caught in a hormonal limbo between adulthood and childhood. We are expected to go out and get jobs, apply for college, plan for a future, and yet also told to enjoy our teenage years as children before we have to enter the “real world” post-graduation. Is it any wonder that we are stressed? We are caught between two worlds: we look at the kids at our schools and wonder if we ever could have been that small, while at the same time we have no idea how to handle the world that we are about to be plunged into.

And yet, we are longing for that plunge; we can’t wait to get out of high school because, as scary as the future may be, it is better than this awkward limbo. That said, the only definite cure for senioritis is a high school diploma.

This cure will be administered soon enough, but we have a hectic two months ahead of us first and must find temporary remedies to keep us sane until that glorious day: graduation.

So, here are five ways to ease your symptoms of senioritis while you count down the days until May 21st.

1. Be a Kid

Like I said, we are caught in a limbo between childhood and adulthood, but the good thing about this limbo is that it is okay to be a kid still! Sometimes you need to just forget your future planning for a little while and play tag at a park, break out some coloring books, or rewatch old Disney movies. I know that even five minutes of swinging on the swings at the park by my house made me feel much better!

My friends and I went for a picnic and threw water balloons at each other. You are never too old to play at the park!
My friends and I went for a picnic and threw water balloons at each other. You are never too old to play at the park!

2. Make Something

Creativity has a way of refocusing our minds and also has the added benefit of being productive without being stressful. I personally enjoy painting and composing and although I rarely finish anything, it calms me to put my mind to a single task rather than the bazillion obligations of senior year. Even just singing a song at the top of your voice or typing up a rambling blog post (guilty…) can do wonders.

Pinterest fails are still creative...maybe...
Pinterest fails are still creative…maybe…

3. Treat Yourself!

If ever there was a time for chocolate, this is it. Emotions are at a constant high and stress is at a dangerous level, so allow yourself to enjoy a favorite treat or, even better, try a new one! I have been living off of Starbucks (Grande coconut milk latte: thank you Chris the Latte Boy!) and froyo, but today decided to mix it up and throw together an original brownie recipe. To put it simply, it is HEAVENLY and took only about 15 minutes to throw together, plus the awesome fact that it include tons of antioxidants due to the coconut oil! I will include the recipe at the bottom of this post. 🙂


4. Spend Time with Friends

This seems like an obvious one, but in the business of this time of year, it is easy to forget to include socializing in your packed schedule, and waving at your friend from across the classroom during second hour does not count as socializing. So whether it means getting together to study, going out to cry over ice cream together, or even just talking on the phone for a bit, make time to reach out to your pals. And (I know this will sound blasphemous) sometimes an afternoon at the mall with your best friend is worth more in the long run than a day of cramming. (Disclaimer: a day of studying with your best friend might be better than both…#nerdlife)

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5. Keep this in Perspective

Yes, senioritis stinks. It is no fun for anyone. Goodness, even my teachers seem ready to collapse! (My AP Lit. teacher made us cookies today to cheer us, and herself, up…thanks Mrs. Plunk!) However, as difficult as this is, it too shall pass. In a few months, you probably won’t even remember all of the frustrations of this year. Maybe you’ll even look back on high school with- dare I say it?- fondness. A friend of mine recently shared a Bible verse with me that has been extremely encouraging as I face each day:

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us

an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  

-2 Corinthians 4:17

Soon you will no longer be a senior. You will hold your diploma in your hand and once more be a freshman, a newbie to the world of college and adulthood. Your senioritis will be cured and your future stretched out before you. In the meantime, play, laugh, eat, and most of all, enjoy these next two months.

Senioritis Salvation Brownies: “It’s like graduation in your mouth!” 

Update: I just tried one (or four...) and they are the best from-scratch brownies I have ever had!
Update: I just tried one (or four…) and they are the best from-scratch brownies I have ever had!

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup coconut oil (Full of healthy fats and antioxidants, so clearly this is health food!)

2/3 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips (any kind, but I used milk chocolate)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (For all of you studying for AP Chemistry, this is degrees Fahrenheit, not Kelvin or Celsius.)

2. Mix coconut oil, eggs, flour, and sugar together in a medium bowl. Coconut oil may be clumpy, but will become liquid quickly with heat. I put the bowl in the oven for about two minutes to soften it and that seemed to work just fine.

3. Add salt, baking powder, cocoa, vanilla and chocolate chips. Mix well and pour into an 8×8 inch pan. Optional: keep half of the batter to eat. If you do, be warned that your brownies may be thinner than you expected, but I assure you that (risk of salmonella aside), this is worth it; the batter was downright delectable!

4. Bake for 30-40 minutes. I recommend checking on them at 30 minutes and letting them continue to bake for additional time if the top is still super squishy. (I’ve been watching a lot of Cupcake Wars lately, so I can verify that this is the proper baking technique…)

5. Let sit until they can be cleanly cut.

6. Sneak a bite of the edges every time you walk by the kitchen and maybe share some actual brownies with your fellow seniors.

Bon appetit! And good luck on the rest of your year!