Monday, December 28, 2015

Two Hundred Years of Emma

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Jane Austen borrows Shakespeare's famous line in Emma - her fourth book, originally published in December 1815 - as an introduction to the romantic drama. Though I am not as attached to this novel as I am to Pride & Prejudice, I'm currently in the middle of my third re-read as a commemoration of Emma's bicentennial. 

Emma is the comedic story of a twenty-one year old, wealthy, spoiled, meddlesome, but altruistic woman named Emma Woodhouse, who, after successfully matching her governess Miss Taylor with a Mr. Weston, decides to try out her matchmaking talents on a new friend, Harriet Smith. With the arrival of new characters comes new romantic complications; Emma has little talent for true love matching, and is often blind to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Much of the book is spent with the reader harbouring an annoyance towards Emma - Austen's decision to make the character "a heroine whom no one but myself will like" proved true - yet I cannot help but enjoy the novel even as it is written closely to Emma's perspective. Things unknown to Emma are unknown to the reader as well, making for some moments of mystery and surprise as the pages go by. Ultimately, Emma is an engaging tale of a woman who must combat boredom by meddling in the affairs of others; it gives a study in class marriages and presents an interesting comedy of manners.

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