07.09 Emma

Emma by Jane Austen
July 2009 Extra Meeting

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  1. moirabbc

     /  August 23, 2009

    I agree with some of Michele’s insightful comment but cannot feel the same way about the book. I could not bear to be in the company of the inmates of Highbury long enough to finish the book. Why did they have to be so SILLY and so DULL? I needed to like at least one of the main characters but Emma was insufferable, her father was the most precious fusspot on the block and Mr Knightley was a sanctimonious creep. Sorry to be so dogmatic but ‘Emma’ left me cold.

  2. michelebbc

     /  July 8, 2009

    How to be objective about a book I’ve had out of the library since 1982 and read 20 + times?

    I read Emma after a gap of a few years, quite nervously, wondering if it would be like visiting an old friend and discovering you no longer have anything in common. I needn’t have worried. I was instantly absorbed back into the community of Highbury and found myself reading every single word and enjoying it more than ever.

    This is a book that on the surface could be termed ‘chick lit’ and can be read in that way, but it is so much more. The story itself isn’t complicated, ‘rich spoilt girl finds love after a series of humorous misunderstandings’, but the depth of the book is in the observation of character and relationships in an enclosed community.

    Emma herself is a truly obnoxious character, spoilt, arrogant, full of self importance, a gossip, manipulative, and really not as clever as she’d like to think. A really interesting, unusual heroine with a strength of character sadly lacking in modern fiction!

    In her arrogance Emma decides to plan other people’s life and relationships, determinedly sure that she is right and refusing to listen to any sensible advice from anyone. – Luckily there is a streak of kind heartedness that runs through her character and is displayed in her relationships with her father and Mrs Weston that somehow manages to keep us on her side however bad her behaviour.

    I wondered this time if I would find the relationship between Emma and Mr Knightly objectionable after reading and being annoyed by several books in which the woman’s character has been informed by a man. With this in mind I was quite surprised to discover that Emma really doesn’t change at all in response to any of Knightly’s well meant advice! The only time she truly considers and acts upon something he has said is the time he reprimands her for her behaviour to Miss Bates, other advice (such as that regarding her friendship with Jane Fairfax) is half heartedly acted upon but then soon forgotten if it doesn’t suit her.

    In fact this is a repeated theme not just with Knightlys advice but with Emma’s own thoughts and resolutions on how she will change her behaviour. She often has very good intentions but they rarely last very long and some of the funniest passages in the book are detailing Emma’s own thought processes as she manipulates and changes her own opinions and beliefs to suit her own interests.

    You have a sense that Emma will improve as a person, but more through a better insight into her own character than through efforts by anyone else, and on trying to visualise the type of marriage that Emma and Mr Knightly might have I was left with a very strong feeling that Emma would be the one in charge!


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