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Thursday, August 30, 2007

I had seen the movie before, but not read the book. And there is more to be enjoyed in the book (as one would suspect). Emma Woodhouse, a wealthy young woman, lives with her hypochondriac and worried father, and has much influence over her whole neighborhood and small town. She is used to being powerful and having her own way, and is spoiled but not horribly so. The only person who ever stands up to her and reprimands her for unhealthy attitudes and actions is her neighbor and longtime family friend, Mr. Knightley. She tries to play matchmaker with her new discovery (and friend), Harriet, but that doesn't go over well for a number of reasons.

Miss Bates is an unforgettable character. She is poor, takes care of her mother and her mother and niece from time to time, has never been married, always has plenty to say, and is liked by everyone. Miss Bates often has not much of substance to say, and even that she says multiple ways. But she has a good heart and is grateful for any kindness that she is shown. At one point, a number of people are out on a picnic and Emma humiliates Miss Bates in front of everyone. Mr. Knightley escorts Emma to her carriage as she is leaving and says "badly done, Emma." (slight paraphrase) Because Emma has the better situation in life, she is the one who must show restraint and kindness and not judge harshly. Over time, Emma shows her care and sorrow for what she said and the relationship is repaired. But how true it is that a few words or actions can damage others so easily.

Author: Jane Austen
Date published:1816
Genre: Fiction
Number of pages: 376


Lark said...

It's interesting that you singled out that moment ("badly done, Emma"). I remember a literature professor using that exchange as an example of a society that is morally sensitive, where such a simple, mild rebuke is enough. If I remember right, it was contrasted with Flannery O'Connor's statement about having to hit people over the head with things in her stories-- because our society just isn't that morally aware anymore.

They portrayed this moment quite well in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, I think. Knightley doesn't raise his voice, Emma isn't even looking at him, but she's crying as she realizes what she's done.

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