So for this week I was meant to read CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. However since I was on vacation and I wanted to travel light, which a 1200 page book doesn’t really allow, I only packed my e-reader and completed my Jane Austen’s readings. So I’m actually a little ahead in terms of reading and reviews. Narnia will be next week instead. So today here’s about Jane Austen’s Emma.
Emma is a young lady of some consequence who doesn’t need to marry to obtain money and live decently. In fact she doesn’t intend to marry at all since she can’t see how it would improve her current situation. She looks after her father and has been in charge of the house ever since her sister marries as her mother passed away. She’s a woman of some intelligence but also idle in many ways. She doesn’t apply herself to anything in depth. Everybody dotes on her though: her father, her governess – who just married – except her sister’s brother-in-law Mr. Knightley who challenges her preconceived notions and her ‘I know it all’ attitude.
She takes a young woman of lower class but rare beauty under her wing and decides to play matchmaker for her, despite Mr. Knightley’s advice not to. Her preconceptions lead her to make wrong assumptions about people’s attachment, even her own.
Emma isn’t a particularly friendly character; she’s self-righteous and thinks herself higher than most people. She’s got strong ideas about class and befriending such people who aren’t ‘worthy’ of her companionship. She convinces her friend Harriet to refuse a proposal from Mr. Martin, a farmer of some means, because he’s not gentility, but neither is she. She’s jealous of Jane Fairfax who’s more accomplished and diligent in everything she does. She’s contemptuous and mean to Miss Bates, Jane’s aunt, who’s an old maid and a little silly.
It’s an interesting novel because the heroin doesn’t need to marry, she rules the world she lives in although she’s confined inside it. It’s not as if she’s lacking something to be happy, but it seems to let her be exactly as she wants and to refuse anyone’s guidance.
I guess I’m not that much into matchmaking; I didn’t love the story as much as I did Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility. Emma was one of Austen’s books I had never read. I might have appreciated it more if I’d read it when I was a teenager – although I was never really into love stories. But I found it lacked a real plot and to be honest from the second page I knew the outcome. Not that Austen hides much.
We’re still left with the impression that the only acceptable future for a young woman is to marry, even one who doesn’t need to. All the eligible ladies of the story get married in the end to the one person they truly appreciate. There aren’t really any antagonist although it could be argued Mr. and Mrs. Elton are quite disagreeable and are presented as the bad guys.
Somehow it’s not as interesting as Pride and Prejudice nor as sweet as Sense and Sensibility. Still the writing is as smooth and agreeable as ever. I understand Austen is a master and recognized in English literature but I don’t think it is so different from her other stories to justify also being on that 100 Books to read before you die list.
Did you read Emma?
Did you like it?