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Emma (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism) Paperback – September 24, 2001
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Of all Jane Austen's heroines, Emma Woodhouse is the most flawed, the most infuriating, and, in the end, the most endearing. Pride and Prejudice's Lizzie Bennet has more wit and sparkle; Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey more imagination; and Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood certainly more sense--but Emma is lovable precisely because she is so imperfect. Austen only completed six novels in her lifetime, of which five feature young women whose chances for making a good marriage depend greatly on financial issues, and whose prospects if they fail are rather grim. Emma is the exception: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." One may be tempted to wonder what Austen could possibly find to say about so fortunate a character. The answer is, quite a lot.
For Emma, raised to think well of herself, has such a high opinion of her own worth that it blinds her to the opinions of others. The story revolves around a comedy of errors: Emma befriends Harriet Smith, a young woman of unknown parentage, and attempts to remake her in her own image. Ignoring the gaping difference in their respective fortunes and stations in life, Emma convinces herself and her friend that Harriet should look as high as Emma herself might for a husband--and she zeroes in on an ambitious vicar as the perfect match. At the same time, she reads too much into a flirtation with Frank Churchill, the newly arrived son of family friends, and thoughtlessly starts a rumor about poor but beautiful Jane Fairfax, the beloved niece of two genteelly impoverished elderly ladies in the village. As Emma's fantastically misguided schemes threaten to surge out of control, the voice of reason is provided by Mr. Knightly, the Woodhouse's longtime friend and neighbor. Though Austen herself described Emma as "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," she endowed her creation with enough charm to see her through her most egregious behavior, and the saving grace of being able to learn from her mistakes. By the end of the novel Harriet, Frank, and Jane are all properly accounted for, Emma is wiser (though certainly not sadder), and the reader has had the satisfaction of enjoying Jane Austen at the height of her powers. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Library Journal
This is another case where a classic is being reprinted simply as a tie-in to a TV/feature film presentation. Libraries, nonetheless, can benefit by picking up a quality hardcover for a nice price.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
As every good fan of Austen's work knows, all her stories end with all the characters in wedded bliss (even the sometimes undeserving), the proverbial happy ending for all. One would think that with this in mind, the reader would lose interest because of this, but somehow or other Miss Austen always makes the journey to that ending so interesting. The characters are engrossing and dynamic (from the nosy but noble-hearted Mrs. Jennings to the haughty Mrs. John Dashwood) and Austen's analysis of them is razor-sharp. She manages to capture the very essence of their soul in their behavior (in spite of the restraint which good breeding requires them to display). As might be expected of a great novelist, she never moralizes but has the reader judge for themselves whom they would consider the most benevolent (and the least). The novel uses love, marriage, money and family as points of reference to gauge each of the characters and their views on these subjects make each of them who they are.
Overall, this was a fantastic novel, a real tour-de-force of Austen's wit and talent. My only word of warning to the reader would be to note that since this was her debut novel, it may lack some of the subtlety which someone who's read "Pride and Prejudice" or "Emma" may be expecting from an Austen novel. One must remember that she is only starting to come to her own in this novel (and does so quite well), and so inevitably some of the characters may seems a bit predictable and some of the plot points may seem a little forced. Also, in this novel, there is a strong tendency to say rather than to show (but for which there is a good reason), which is typically seen as a weakness in narration. I cannot say that this is her best novel, but I do think it quite worth reading (as all her works seem to be).
There is a good reason why every generation continues to spawn ardent fans of this fabulous writer, why her work seems least resistant to age than every other nineteenth century novelist, and the reader who does not understand why already undoubtedly will after spending a few minutes with this dazzling read!
Glad to have revisited this book and will revisit others but don't think they will be by Jane Austen. My book was downloaded onto my Kindle from Amazon.
The problems that women faced were numerous and the fact that they could only do two things in life, either marry or not was a given fact. Ms Austen brings to life the perils of the first and what can happen when a young woman fell in love and it was not returned. Driven to heartbreak she told how Marianne fell ill with the loss of her love and her sister, Elinor fell to hidden despair at the same time.
We also were given an example of the honor of the men of that time. Both in Edward but also in Colonel Brandon. As I have found with all of her books though she leads us on a merry chase to only have the happy ever after endings. However in this book we do find that there were some really interesting twists and turns to get us there.
What did I like about this book, well I think what I found is the honor of both men was the best. Edward and Colonel Brandon were both in a complicated love but in different ways. Edward due to folly and the Colonel due to a lost love. I was so proud of Edward when he stood by his commitment, even when his mother disowned him. Then the Colonel so giving even when he thought there was no chance for himself.
What did I not like, well that has to be obvious, Lucy and Fanny. They both drove me mad with anger. Throw in the stupidity of Edwards mother and it was enough to really give way to a fit. I know that even today there are women like that but it just made my skin crawl.
The best part of the whole book though was the ending. Edward to be released from the commitment and allowing him the chance for true love and for the Colonel to win the love of Marianne. Of course, even better than that was the love of family that surrounded all of them.
Reading the classics is an honor that should be required of our younger generations so that they can see just how far we have come. They have a freedom that was unheard of and yet they don't seen to understand how much they have. Even I have learned to really appreciate what so many prior to me have gone through just so that I have the right to make a decision for myself. This was a really great read and I am looking forward to continuing my enjoyment of the classics.