New Lessons I’ve Learnt From Rereading Emma

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_coverHi 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!!
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.”

there's no place like home.png

Who would have thought I could have found similarities between Emma and The Wizard of Oz?! Clearly my brain works in mysterious ways….

Anyhoo- have you read any Austen? Are you a fan? Let me know in the comments below!

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42 thoughts on “New Lessons I’ve Learnt From Rereading Emma

  1. Hey Ashers! says:

    This post is brilliant, and reminds me I haven’t read Emma in ages. It’s my second favorite Austen book (P&P will always be my number one), but I definitely agree with you: Mr. Knightley doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves. I’d take him over Darcy any day.

    I’ll have to slip Emma into my reading list soon! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so much! Ahh I love Pride and Prejudice too 🙂 but this will always be my number 1! He really doesn’t- I love him so much! I definitely would too! Ooh definitely- it’s one of those books I can happily read again and again 🙂

      Like

  2. themodernjaneaustenblog says:

    Emma is definitely my favorite Jane Austen character. I relate to her nosiness. I was known to be a bit of a matchmaker in high school (and maybe even now lol). She generally has a good heart though even if she is a bit selfish (and jealous) at times. I think that is what makes her so relatable. She has these inherent flaws but is a generally good person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Oh I totally agree!! I don’t really think I have much in common with her matchmaking tbh- but I relate to her in so many other ways- like her trying to do good and kind of screwing things up :/ And I think that as you said, she’s inherently a good person- which is why she’s so likeable- she’s the kind of person I’d love to be friends with 🙂 . A lot of the time heroines come across as sickly sweet and not believable at all.

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  3. jessreadingnook says:

    This makes me want to read Emma. I actually haven’t, and I feel like such a bad English major/teacher. The worst part? I’ve seen the movie too many times, and yet I still haven’t read the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thereadingrebel says:

    I love Jane Austen and have read all her books many times. She is such a great writer with wit,charm,and style. But I will have to say that Emma is my least favorite book of hers. I never could like Emma or Knightley. Emma was just such a spoiled little brat and Knightley I lost all my respect for when he fell in love with Emma. I have always wished Jane Fairfax was the heroine. My favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. I have read them both so many times. I was so disappointed in Emma having heard such great things. I read it again because some goodread friends said I should give it another go but no good. I loved all the secondary characters and even read a fan fiction about Emma I enjoyed but I just can’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Well I one hundred percent agree with you on the first part of your post- cos I love Austen too 😀 Personally I think good literature should divide opinion and the best characters should be like the best people- having as many detractors as advocates. That’s why it’s totally fine for you to hate Emma and me to love her. Everyone has different tastes because we relate to different things and that’s totally cool 🙂 (personally, I love pride and prejudice, which is my third favourite, though Mansfield Park is the only one I didn’t like at all) I don’t think there’s any problem with you not liking it- as I said, we all have different tastes, and I don’t see why you should try to convince yourself to like something that you don’t like.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thereadingrebel says:

        I do wonder sometimes if it was so over-hyped and my not connecting at all with the main character ruined it for me. I mean everyone has said that this is her greatest novel or second only to P&P. I know that happens to readers. What was it about Mansfield Park you didn’t like? I usually hear it’s the hero and heroine that turns most people off from the book. But I am always happy to hear that someone loves a book even if I hate it. We all connect with different things and people.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          That’s fair- a lot of people don’t connect with her cos she’s very spoilt and self-centred- but for me, that was oddly part of her charm. I like characters to have an edge about them- which is probably why I *hated* Fanny (yeah it’s kind of predictable that I hated her). I spent 90% of the book wanting to punch her, and the other 10% grossed out by the fact that she married her cousin, who she basically treated like a brother for most of the book :/ Yeah definitely!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. bambiquim says:

    Yes, yes, yes to #9 — people who think Emma is all romance are missing a core component of the book. Kind of like Northanger Abbey (my favorite Austen novel, actually), Austen is exploring the idea of perception vs. reality. Even though her novel ends with Emma’s pivotal moment of self-realization, that she is in love with Knightley, at the same time, the romance is tempered by the fact that after marriage, she and her love are going to end up staying in the same house she has grown up in, with her ailing father. The story has gone everywhere without really going anywhere at all. (And Knightley says he’s cool with it, but I doubt many guys want to spend the first years of marriage in the same house as their father-in-law, especially when they have as much money as Knightley…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Definitely!! Oh I love Northanger Abbey 🙂 Oh that is such a wonderful, beautiful analysis! I think character growth and understanding yourself are central to all of Austen’s works- so many of her characters think they understand things so much better than they do (sorry that may have been super garbled- pretty zonked right now! haha yeah I know what you mean- I thought that was kind of a bit sad for both of them to be honest- and I also felt sorry for the father having to put up with a seriously loved up couple in their honey moon period living under his roof. Thank you so much for your comment!! 😀

      Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ohh it’s wonderful, isn’t it? I also fell in love with it around A level- but I was actually studying Pride and Prejudice- but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it- this novel completely changed that for me! Like you it inspired my love of all things Austen!

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