Hi all! Hope you enjoyed my post yesterday, though I have to say that since I did not have the chance to change it after midday, according to the sacred rules of April Fools I became the fool- whoopsie.
Anyhoo I’m back to my old Librarian self now, so time to discuss this wonderful book! Before Emma I’d read Pride and Prejudice, but somehow hadn’t connected with the story in the same way. But the second I read the first sentence of Emma, Austen’s humour just clicked and I fell in love right away. After that I found I was finally able to connect with Pride and Prejudice in a way I hadn’t before. So I have this book to thank for introducing me to my love of Austen.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread this book. And there’s a reason I keep going back to it time and time again: it’s the perfect novel. What makes it perfect? Well that there are so many lessons to learn from it no matter how many times I read it. Here are just some of the things I noticed this time round:
(Be prepared, cos this might get a little spoilery)
- It’s okay not to be perfect. One of the best things about Emma is how imperfect Emma is because we can see ourselves in her imperfections. Besides perfect characters are boring.
- Even if she’s not perfect, Emma is the perfectly constructed character. She is a list of contradictions: ungenerous and charitable, kind and selfish, empathetic and yet blind to other people’s true feelings. This is the best sort of character because it feels realistic.
- It is one thing for the main character to grow; it is another for the reader to grow too. The book provokes you to dislike Emma at the start, grow to understand her in the middle and fall in love with her by the end. That is no easy feat and a sign of Austen’s true artistry.
- This is a common theme in lots of other books and somehow I had not noticed it in this book- but central to this story is that sometimes by doing kindness one can do the greatest harm. Emma really is just trying to help Harriet by discouraging her from being with Martin and inflating her own self-worth. Emma really believes she is helping her- but it almost costs her friend her happiness in the short term and destroys what little is good in Harriet’s character by giving her a bit of a superiority complex. Which is especially bad as she is just the natural daughter of tradesman- and never had any hope beyond being with Mr Martin.
- The Eltons are arses. Not just to Emma and Harriet, but to Jane as well. In the guise of being nice to Jane, they humiliate and belittle her. I don’t know why I didn’t notice that before.
- I finally understood what Mr Knightley meant by saying she should not have insulted Miss Bates because she is rich- it’s not that she is automatically superior, but that she has certain advantages and it is not nice to flaunt what she has. It is because of her position of privilege that she was in a position to say such things in the first place and she should not have abused that position.
- Frank is a fascinating character. I never paid as much attention to him before- but he’s actually a lot more complex than I ever gave him credit for before. Don’t believe me- think of the scene where he makes himself appear foppish and ridiculous by going all the way to London just to get his hair cut, just so that he can have a cover story for getting Jane a gift. Because I only ever saw the story from Emma and Knightley’s perspective, I never really thought about how sweet that is!!
- And speaking of Frank, I never noticed before, but the story within the story is actually far more complex than the story itself! That is incredibly intricate plotting- bravo Austen!
- Though it still has a flighty, romantic air to it, it is one of the more realistic of Austen’s novels. The scenes of misunderstanding, friendship and love could easily play out in a modern novel. It is the perfect social satire because it is so enduring.
- This isn’t really new, but it’s always lovely to be reminded that love is there all along. I adore the moment when Emma realises her feelings for Knightley at the end of the book. In a way, it reminds me of the line in The Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”