Jane Austen is by far one of my favorite authors. I was first captivated by her literary world while reading Pride & Prejudice in High School. I automatically deemed it one of my favorite books, have you ever met a soul that was not charmed by Mr. Darcy or inspired by Elizabeth’s independent streak? Soon I wanted to read more of her works, starting with Emma. While doing research on what should be my next Jane Austen read, Emma received mixed reviews from every outlet I looked at, but following all the positive reviews and its cheeky premise I decided to give it a go.
Emma surpassed my expectations, I was completely enthralled with every page of the book; Laughing at Emma’s unwitting shenanigans, fascinated by the mess of love triangles, and falling in love with Mr. Knightley. Some argue that Emma is by far one of Austen’s best works. One thing I love about Jane Austen’s novels is that they’re pretty much the Romcoms of the 19th Century. They’re witty, smart, captivating, and refreshingly ahead of their time, and let’s just say I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Emma captured all of the best qualities of Austen’s works, making it thus far my number one.
Jane Austen begins the novel by stating “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” In the first sentence, she introduces us to our heroine describing her as “handsome, clever, and rich”. Emma, the character, is clearly not a love at first read. At the beginning of the novel, she comes across as bratty, entitled, and ignorant, in contrast to the ever so charming Mr. Knightley who is the first and only person to call her out and attempt to bring her to reality. No worries though, by the end of the novel you while find yourself rooting for her, at least I did. Emma guides us through this comedy of manners with a mess of matchmaking and unrequited love of a fault purely her own when she deems herself cupid with the best intentions.
Now over to you: Some questions for discussion!
How do you think the relationship between Mr. Knightley and Emma change throughout the course of the novel? Do you think that Mr. Knightley’s feelings change as the novel progresses?
Do you think Emma was a good friend to Harriet Smith? And was Emma’s concerns for Harriet’s refinement born of an honest desire to help, or is it something less altruistic?
Do you think Emma changes from the beginning of the novel or becomes more self-aware? How do you consider her as a heroine and how do her ideals compare or contrast with those of the time?
With all the matchmaking and mismatch-making that takes place in the novel, What character traits in the couples make them suited or unsuited for each other? Why do you think the mismatches are so important to the story?
Most importantly, what did you think of the novel? If you have read Jane Austen before where does it rank? If not would you read more of her novels?