Between a busy time at work, exhaustion, and some procrastination, I’ve finally managed to complete my first book of the Jane Austen Challenge – Emma! With its humour and interesting thoughts, Emma proved to be the perfect escape from a stressful week.
The lead character, Emma, is clever, rich, and beautiful with very few problems in life. The major problem she does face is the tendency to think a little too well of herself. But since she’s unaware of it, it’s hardly a problem. This is Emma as described in the first page. Although she may appear rather smug and not someone you’d normally want to be friends with, as the pages turn we find that Emma has a number of redeeming qualities and her faults only serve to make her more believable and real as a person.
When Jane Austen began planning Emma she wrote that she would be taking a heroine whom no one but herself would like much. But only a person with an iron heart would not like Emma because despite her want to manipulate the world around her and meddle in other people’s affairs, Emma truly believes that she is helping people by managing their affairs. In the course of events, Emma realizes that her interference isn’t helping anyone and is instead causing a lot of confusion and pain to the people around her. She is very ashamed of herself and is resolved to change. Unfortunately, the wheels she set turning by her interference eventually cause her misery as well. This is a story where the heroine earns her happy ending. It is truly a story of self deceit and self discovery.
The humour and wit in this book had me laughing out loud while the thoughts and ideas had me realizing how many of the issues that existed then still exist now. And that they probably always will. This comedy is centred on marriage as an ordeal. It pertains to the moral issues related to marriage that govern society. As Lord David Cecil puts Jane Austen’s view: “It was wrong to marry for money, but it was silly to marry without it.” As you can probably guess Emma’s amusement lies primarily in fixing up people whom she thinks are nice with people whom she thinks suitable for them. Her judgement is usually based on rank and social importance.
If you’re reading this warily while thinking that Emma is nothing more than a television soap, reading this book for yourself may change your mind. Granted that Jane Austen’s novels, as far as action is concerned, are storms in teacups nevertheless, this book will satisfy cravings for excitement and drama. I personally enjoyed this book for the way the characters have been portrayed. Apart from the conversations that they have with one another, their actual thoughts are laid open alongside for us, the readers. It made them appear all the more real. It was also very interesting to note how in sync Jane Austen was with the way different people function. If you love reading, I hardly think that Emma will disappoint. It’s the kind of book that any person can enjoy despite the language and time difference. And that would be mainly for its comic brilliance, as any review of the book will tell you.