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A Review of Emma
I’ve read Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and most recently Emma. All of them are wonderful, and I can never decide which one is my favorite book by Jane Austen. But definitely Emma is, to me, a very engaging one.
I have no special feeling about this book at first glance. Because of Jane Austen, I choose it and take some patience to read. And finally, the patience is greatly rewarded. Emma is a timeless story which is both funny and compelling. The characters are all really well developed, especially Emma, a 21-year-old girl, who is portrayed as incredibly human.
The story is, briefly, about Emma, who is young, beautiful, rich and witty and lives with her father Mr. Woodhouse. She has vowed herself never to marry, but loves to play a matchmaker. She has just matched her tutor, Miss Taylor, up with Mr. Weston. She is quite proud of her success and finds satisfaction in it. In her arrogance, she believes that she knows what is right for everyone, and determined to appoint herself Cupid for all of her friends. Mr. Knightley, a neighbor and the brother of her older sister’s husband, warns her not to meddle in the other’s affairs, but she doesn’t take it seriously. She takes care of a young girl of unknown parentage named Harriet. Harriet is in love with a farmer named Robert Martin, but Emma thinks that he is beneath her, so she encourages Harriet to set her sights on Mr. Elton, a local vicar, as a future husband. Poor Harriet is completely bowled over by Emma. But unfortunately, everything goes to the opposite side, and finally Emma knows the fact that Harriet and Mr. Elton are completely unsuited, and that Harriet and her farmer are made for each other. Through a lot of hilarious scenes, Emma comes to realize that she doesn’t know as much as she thinks, and learns that it’s better to let other people manage their own lives.
As the other works of Jane Austen, Emma describes the ordinary person and trivial matters. The plot develops around the activities of choosing spouse for the heroines. It reveals the bad habit that people regarded marriage as the economic insurance to woman at that time. In order to raise the economic position, they emphasized the family status but ignored women’s feelings and rights. The main female characters in Emma all seek the equal communication with man, they demand the equal rights in the social position, and insist on the freedom of observing and choosing spouses. It is nearly tantamount to a shout of resistance.
Emma and Mr. Knightley are the two leading characters in this novel. They always help the others on many occasions, but they have different ways to do that. Emma firmly believes that “there is nothing more beautiful than a match well made.” But just because Emma loves matchmaking, it doesn’t mean her attempts are always well made. The way that Emma chooses spouse for the girl is very funny, even a little fantastic. She tries her best to find man with high social status for the girl of low birth. But it’s often that herself is kept in the dark, the result and her expectation are on the contrary, and a lot of stupid jokes are made. For example, Emma thinks that Harriet would be a perfect match for Mr. Elton, so she encourages Harriet to set her sights on him, but everything is ruined because Mr. Elton turns out to be in love with Emma instead. Perhaps we could say that the author wants to lead the readers to laugh at the bad habit in the old British society.
Mr. Knightley helps the others in another way that is different from Emma’s. For example, once in a dancing party, when he saw Harriet receive the scornful cold reception, he stepped forward bravely, defended her self-esteem and helped her out of the extremely awkward situation. He hated and cracked down the conduct that fawned on those above and bullied those below. Although he was deeply in love with Emma, he was against that she helped Harriet claim ties of kinship with someone of a higher social position. He supported the pure and faithful love between Harriet and Robert Marin, and gave them proper help so that they had an opportunity to get married according to their own will. The author puts his role of Mr. Knightley in the respectable position, undoubtedly hoping to reflect his own certain social ideal through this character. The highlight for me is the arguments between Emma and Mr. Knightley which are superbly crafted. Mr. Knightley is definitely my favorite character, and is a perfect gentleman.
Another two characters, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, escape from reality and arrange marriage privately, finally they become the butt of everyone’s jokes. In fact, they hide the painful topic in heart and yield to public opinion pressure. The readers always feel depressed about them. However, the other two pairs of lovers who face the reality of society and pursue the true and the good are praised by people. We can find out that the author appeals to the society to admit the equality of men and women.
Austen’s talents of satiring shines in various characters, particularly in Mrs. Elton, who represents society’s perpetual desire to be upper class. The character of Emma herself is also rather good because she is flawed unlike Austen’ s other heroines who seem a bit too perfect. I could not admire her as much as the other heroines, but clever at the same time, and she always has the best intentions at heart, especially for her loved one like Mr. Woodhouse. Of course, the other minor characters are also wonderful, the paranoid Mr. Woodhouse, the talkative Miss Bates, and the innocent Harriet are also memorable characters.
The book is beautifully written although quite slow going with a lot of long winded polite dialogue. And the language is excellent, the surroundings fit the characters very well. Jane Austen’s admirable style and incomparable charm get away with the happy ending without seeming like a sappy soap opera. The style of the book is not artificial at all. While narrating the incidents, it just right catches the reader’s heart properly. The author with her women’s sensitive sagacity and self-confident ethical consciousness, extols the true, good and beautiful things, and castigates the evil and false things. This has undoubtedly lashed people who are similar to the characters in the book.
Emma creates a magical effect, and its glamour is overwhelming. The reason has two aspects.
Firstly, Emma succeeds in creating an atmosphere of satisfying the reader’s intellectual narcissism. The scenes are vivid portrayed that the reader feels as if he is participating. Readers seem to place themselves in the midst of the character’s position, they can’t help being attracted by the role, and participating in it. As the plot unfolds, the reader keeps a close contact with the heroine by mind. When it comes to a comical or ridiculous change of plot, an echo of laughter is provoked. If the change of plot is an embarrassing one, the reader will also feel rather embarrassed.
Secondly, the plot of Emma is also a riddle. Once the reader begins his journey in the book, he will attempt to penetrate the riddle under the author’s guide. In this sense, Emma also resembles a mysterious detective novel. Jane Austen purposely conceals all the important clues from the reader’s view in a deliberate way, until it’s the right time to reveal all of the truth. In Emma’s perspective, the reader tries hard to observe the other characters’ emotions and personalities, in order to hope to find the truth via all kinds of clues. Although the reader can’t hope to foresee exactly what is going to happen in the end, a dim realization of what the final result might be is accompanying the course of reading from the beginning to the end. The reader feels that he knows the thread of the plots. It seems that the author is telling the reader: we all know how ridiculous Emma’s concept is. This sentiment greatly strengthens the comical effects while reading.
Emma is the fifth novel of Jane Austen. At the time of writing this novel, Austen had been an excellent writer. Through the reader’s careful arrangement for every plot in the novel, the apparent cause and the concealed essence are all naturally reasonable. According to apparent phenomena, Emma makes reasonable assumption and judgment. Sometimes sensitive readers are confused, but their thoughts will then naturally develop with Emma’s observation until the final result is revealed but is found the opposite to apparent phenomena. In this way, comical effects are achieved out of expectation.
There’s no breath-taking moment in the novel and no sensational descriptions. But in its progressive and vivid narration, in its mysterious plots, in its subtle portrayal of characters’ personalities and minds, it seems as if a roll of beautiful and somewhat exaggerated painting is shown before the readers. In this painting you can see clearly what the characters’ images and behaviors are, hear their remarks set in different scenes, and feel their joys and pains. After you are through with the story, you might have returned from the journey to the circle of British middle class of that time.
This book is really worth reading. That Jane Austen is the queen of family drama and fantastical prose requires no deliberation. Her inimitable style of writing has won her countless fans. More so, her unparallel supremacy in character development and sentence composition has inspired numerous writers worldwide. Emma certainly makes no exceptions.