By: Jane Austen
One of the largest differences was the relationship between the characters, Emma and Harriet. In the novel, it is clear that their friendship was not entirely genuine. Especially towards the end, when the reader finds out the friendship has basically ended. In the film, Emma and Harriet's friendship seems as though it will continue on and they will remain friends rather than acquaintances. The director probably wanted to put more emphasis in this friendship that was atypical in Austen's period, and also to highlight Emma's character as one who could keep a genuine friendship. The novel is more of a realistic approach to that day and time, while for film's sake, the movie is enhanced.
At the end of the novel, Emma's character seems to have less self pride and dignity. But, as some critics acclaim, Gwyneth Paltrow's star performance seemed to show more pride than in the novel. This makes a difference because in the novel the reader learns to accept Emma more as she is somewhat humbled and it shows a growth in her. In the film however, although Emma does change, the viewer does not gain that same understanding or acceptance of Emma as in the novel.
Towards the end of the novel, there is a rift between Harriet and Emma that occurs when Harriet shares that she thinks Mr. Knightley has feelings for her, which Emma doesn't agree with. Emma actually keeps away from Harriet for some time on purpose. However, this scene is not entirely shown in the film, probably because of time constraint purposes. But this does take away from Harriet and Emma's relationship since this was a slight crack in their relationship, which at the end of the novel, is not sealed. But, at the end of the film, it is. However, it is not an integral part of the story and so the director has to take out some parts.
Another difference, although not an integral part of the story, was that there seemed to be less of a love triangle between Mr.Elton, Harriet and Emma. I think the director's focus was to highlight Emma's character rather than this love triangle, which still stayed true to the story. Also, time constraints would cause a few scenes of the growth of this triangle to be cut out.
The greatest similarity between the novel and film would have to be the representation of societal status during Austen's time. The film successfully illustrated how women of higher class would work to advance their status and how marriage plays a major role in dictating status. For Example, Emma was dead set on making sure Harriet married only what she "deserved" based off her status (which was actually unknown) rather than solely character and personal qualities. In both the Novel and film, Emma is shown as determined, and constantly involved in matchmaking affairs.