“Emma” by Jane Austen is one of those books that is both old and new at the same time. When reading it, you can clearly see time has passed. From the society, to fashion and language. However, certain situations still remain true even today, especially people’s characters and their reactions, and Jane Austen managed to include this all packaged in a wonderful story.
The books starts as we hear that Emma Woodhouse’s friend and former governess, Miss Taylor, has married Mr. Weston. And because Emma introduced them to each other, she takes credit for her matchmaking, and decides that she will try and make another match. She attempts to match her new friend Harriet to Mr. Elton, but things don’t go exactly to plan. Harriet is interested in the farmer, Robert Martin, who even proposes to her. But Emma makes Harriet refuse the proposal and continue to seek Mr. Elton’s attention.
“And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer; for, depend upon it, a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it.”
When it comes to Emma, I have so many conflicting thoughts and opinions. I really adore how gentle of a soul she is. And how much she cares about the people around her. But I also didn’t like how nosey she is, and her fascination to be a matchmaker. She needs to learn to mind her own business. However, considering this is a book written in a certain time, I have to remember that it wasn’t just Emma, but the whole female society behaves in the same way, as annoying as that thought may be. Through the book, however, we do see a change in Emma, and a slight development in her personality, especially around her relationship with Harriet.
To be able to truly appreciate “Emma” for the classic trait it is, you firstly have to be ready to adjust to a time in history where society is simply different. I have seen way too many people criticize this book for this sole reason. But people, you have to understand, that’s how things used to work back then. That is how it was, and if Jane Austin wrote anything different, she wouldn’t have been telling the truth.
I have realised that I read classic books much slower than contemporary ones. In fact, “Emma” took me a month. I couldn’t read it in one day, or binge 100 pages in a sitting. I could only manage a few chapters at a time. But I really enjoyed it! I devoured the writing, the difference in how people walked, talked, dressed. The difference in mannerisms, the difference in how parties used to be like. Even the difference in how certain situations were handled. The gossip especially. It was always there, as it is today, but it felt to me as if the gossip in the past was a bit more thoughtful. People talked about other people, because they cared. Today we all tend to gossip about people we don’t even know.
“A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.
I loved Knightley and his ability to tell Emma off. There is something really charming about him, that kept intriguing me throughout the whole book. And I also really liked Harriet, even though she couldn’t form her own opinion to save her life. I should have drank a shot every time I thought: “Dear girl, don’t you have your own brain to think with?”
I found Mr. Woodhouse very soppy and annoying. Quite selfish too. And quite franckly, he was lucky to have a daughter like Emma, that was always running around him, to attend to his needs. I could even see the book ending with Emma never being married, only to attend to her father. Even her actual marriage in the end had a certain compromise around her father’s happiness.
“That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
My favorite part of the book was Emma’s rant about Mrs. Elton. And not because of the rant itself. In fact, I think that Emma’s outburst was probably a bit over the top. I just loved how different it looks from today’s language, and that intrigues me. If you ever wish to enjoy that part, just head to the end of Chapter 32. It starts with “Insufferable woman.”
I really enjoyed “Emma” and I will now have to read the rest of Jane Austen’s work! I think it’s a true masterpiece that perfectly portrays a certain society in a certain moment of time. And even though written so many years ago, it still touches on points that affect us in the current world we live on. We are still matchmakers, we still gossip and party, we are greedy and we all long for happiness and love, and friends alongside us.