Reading Emma

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich…”, begins the novel “Emma” by Jane Austen. Emma is all that and so much more. She is spoilt, headstrong and manipulative. She is meddlesome, often involving herself in the matrimonial business of others, but considering herself above and beyond matrimony.

“Emma” is the story of a girl who evolves into a woman. It is about the mistakes she makes and the lessons she learns. It is about love and marriage. It is a total chick-lit. And it is my kind of book!

Emma is a bundle of contradictions: She is loving and attentive towards her aging father, but cold towards her chatty but kind-hearted neighbor, Miss. Bates; She helps the poor in her neighborhood, but has an acute sense of Social hierarchy and is hesitant to mix with the neighbors she considers beneath her. She takes on an orphan, Harriet, as a friend and grooms her in genteel ways, only because she assumes her to have come from a respectable family. She even tries to find a husband for her.

When Harriet receives a marriage proposal from Mr. Martin, she discourages her from accepting it, because she thinks he isn’t good enough for her. Emma has someone else in mind for her friend- one Mr. Elton. But he turns out to be a self-obsessed, money-loving jerk, who is after Emma herself.

Hoity-toity Emma fails to see the deep love between another couple, Frank and Jane, and assumes he is in love with her instead. Poor Emma!

We find her committing one blunder after another. Infuriating though it may seem, it is hard to detest her. She is only 21; She has lost her mother who would’ve shown her right from wrong. She only has a doting father, who will never believe his Emma capable of making a mistake, and a friend and a confidante in Mrs. Taylor, her Governess as a child, but who is now married to Mr. Weston.

What made her endearing to me is the way she accepts her follies and corrects herself, when her friend and her sister’s brother-in-law, Mr. Knightley, much older and wiser than she is, points them out to her and shows her the right way.

I found myself waiting eagerly for Mr. Knightley to enter the picture and make everything alright with Emma. When they finally get engaged to one another, you know Emma is in safe hands. I loved him more than Emma herself.

I haven’t read many Classics – only a few writers, like, Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen. Of them all, it is Jane Austen I return to, again and again. I think I want to be a part of the World she writes about, where people enjoy the simple pleasures of life like going for long walks, listening to good music, dancing and socializing with their neighbors over Tea and Dinner parties.

“Emma” is full of them. And I enjoyed reading it, not as much as I enjoyed the other, more renowned book, “Pride and Prejudice”. I loved loved that one, and its heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, too. She was just perfect. But Emma remains special, even though she is not so perfect, or may be BECAUSE she is not so perfect.

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