Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Jane Austen wrote many books, with her most famous books being Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Mansfield Park (1814). Emma came after these 3, and has taken its time to become famous. Further, since Jane Austen chose to write her books anonymously, her books started becoming famous long after her death, with a biography by her nephew, written more than 50 years after her death, that awoke more interest in her. It was only in the early half of the 20th century that she started being acknowledged as a classical writer, and now her works are very famous. Jane Austen remained unmarried, dying at the relatively young age of 42, from an affliction that was not particularly known at that time, but which is now suspected to be Addison's disease or Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Like her other works, Emma was also a critique of the society of that time, where a woman's standing was supposed to be based on marriage, and it would be this marriage that would decide her economic and social security; even though her works have a strong touch of comedy to them.

Emma is essentially a novel that describes the life of a 21 year old girl called 'Emma Woodhouse'. She is not worried about finances, being comfortably off; however, she starts to believe that she is good at match-making and guiding who should marry whom, something that causes a lot of temporary changes in the lives of people around her; in the end, however, everybody settles down happily, including her. There are a number of characters in the novel, and you will need to read carefully to ensure that you don't miss any of the turns and twists of the story.
Emma lives with her father, and has just returned from the marriage of her former governess Miss Taylor, and since she had introduced Miss Taylor to her husband, Emma feels that she has a gift for match-making. One of her closest friends is a person called George Knightley, who is from the neighboring estate, as well as the brother of her sister Isabelle's husband. He is perhaps the only one who is able to criticize actions taken by Emma when he feels that she is wrong. Who is the first person on whom Emma tries out this ability of hers ? It is her new friend, the 17 year old Harriet Smith, who is very sweet, but not very bright.
And here starts the main story. Harriet has got a proposal from a rich farmer called Mr. Martin, but Emma has decided that Mr. Martin is not good enough for Harriet, she would be more suited to the local vicar, Mr. Elton. And then, the unthinkable as per Emma happens - Mr. Elton realizes that Emma is a better catch, and proposes to Emma. Her friends had realized that this would happen, but not Emma. When Emma tries to direct Mr. Elton to Harriet, Mr. Elton makes it plain that he considers Harriet below him, and leaves the place for a while.
The story introduces more characters, and spins around the lives and marriages of these folks, and is fairly interesting.

Emma (1815), a book on England in the 19th century by Jane Austen

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