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Thursday, September 27, 2012

cover of Jane Austen's 'Emma'

I wanted to re-read Emma after watching one of the many movie adaptations, especially when it occurred to me I hadn't read it in quite some time. After watching and then reading in a short time period, I feel that the movie versions invariably make Emma seem to be a bit of an idiot -- whether due to the fact that the story is compressed for time, or the need to visually telegraph what is going to the viewers. In the book, it's rather more subtle. Emma is a lively, intelligent, imaginative creature who makes some errors in judgement - which are actually fairly reasonable, especially when you consider the fact that your perspective is usually rather skewed when your involved or close to what is going on, and particularly when someone is actively trying to deceive you.

One thing I noticed is the sort of shifting perspective of ideal manhood, and what a true gentleman is. Emma initially rejects Robert Martin on sight as a farmer with no manners, and then holds up first Mr. Elton and then Frank Churchill as gentlement to Harriet Smith - although she would never consider Elton for herself, and only briefly and unseriously considers Frank. Of course, sh later finds out what a selfish, mercenary, unkind person Elton is; and there are similar revelations, although to a lesser degree, about Frank Churchill-- selfish, actively deceiving to protect a secret, and flighty. Throughout the book the Knightley brothers are shown as a contrast-- reliable, quiet men, without the flattery of an Elton or the desire to please of a Frank Churchill, but at the same time very observant and insightful about the people around them, and thoughtful and considerate as well.

Another thing that occurred tom e as I finished the book is that Emma's father is pretty nearly as ridiculous a character as the chatterer Miss Bates. He is such a hypochondriac, and wants to feed his guests gruel or keep them from eating cake. Yet Emma never notices this ridiculousness in her father which she finds much easier to laugh at in Miss Bates - because she loves her father; loves him so much that she would be willing to not marry, or to wait until after he has died to marry. Lucky for her, she finds she also loves the one man wise enough and kind enough to handle both her and her father's quirks.

Read a free ebook available from Project Gutenberg.

Author:Jane Austen
Date published:1815
Number of pages:384
Notes:repeat reading; read an ebook


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