January 4, 2013

A Confession Concerning Emma

Posted in Books, England, Jane Austen tagged at 9:11 am by catsinboxes

When I first discovered Jane Austen, I was twelve.  Emma was, I do believe, the third Jane Austen audiobook which I listened to, and I was not impressed.  Simply put, I did not like Emma.  She was far too annoying; how could anyone like her?  I realized that some people did, my own father included.  So then I began a theory: maybe men tolerate Emma more than women.  And that was that.  I listened, and re-listened to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  I read and re-read Persuasion.  I did not touch Emma.  And then, two years ago, Emma came back into my life.  It began with BBC’s new production which is available on Youtube.  While living in Japan, I decided to watch Emma.  And I actually enjoyed it!  So that was that, and at the back of my head, I started to wonder if perhaps I should give Emma another chance.  Time passed, and then -in October- we had a girls’ trip to Louisville, Kentucky.  One of the joys of the trip was high-speed internet.  And, one night, I suggested that we watch Emma.  So we watched it, and everyone was pleased.  Again, I had the inclination -this time stronger- to give Emma another chance.

On the drive back from Louisville, we finished listening to Pride and Prejudice.  I wasn’t ready to be done with Jane Austen, so I made a decision.  I would try Emma, again.  It was duly checked out from the library, and I really enjoyed it!

That said, I will not say that it is my favorite, but it is from one of my favorite authors.  I do believe that age has something to do with it; I’m ready to admire and enjoy it as an amateur connoisseur.  And I feel like I can understand Emma much more now that I am about her age.  Emma’s fault is that she is open in expressing her feelings.  She is too quick to give censure and jump to conjectures.  She is a woman through and through.  And, I find myself wondering, is Emma dislikable simply because she is such a pretty picture of womanhood?  Is it because she wears on her sleeve the faults that so many of her sex indulge in inwardly?  Certainly I am not an Emma, but I do see myself in Emma.  Suddenly, I can understand her irritation with the ‘perfect‘ Jane Fairfax.  In Emma’s lack of carrying through with the best intentions, I can see a picture of my own intentions.  I have been guilty of the same things: making goals but never completing them, yet basking in the praise of being “accomplished” by admiring -and very partial- friends and family.  Suddenly I can see how it happens.  And I can like Emma.  I can like Emma because I realize that I am more like her than I would like.  And I like her even more because of the glimpse Emma affords into Jane Austen’s mind.  There are so many glimpses of society, so many observations on people and character and disposition.  Now that I’ve finished Emma for a second time, I’m more than ready to read it again.  And after all, who doesn’t like Mr. Knightley?

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Woodhouse —I plead guilty of being all too like Emma at […]


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