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Emma (Dover Thrift Editions)
Release Date: December, 1998
Publisher: Dover Publications
Of all Jane Austen's heroines, Emma Woodhouse is the most flawed, the most infuriating, and, in the end, the most endearing. Pride and Prejudice's Lizzie Bennet has more wit and sparkle; Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey more imagination; and Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood certainly more sense--but Emma is lovable precisely because she is so imperfect. Austen only completed six novels in her lifetime, of which five feature young women whose chances for making a good marriage depend greatly on financial issues, and whose prospects if they fail are rather grim. Emma is the exception: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." One may be tempted to wonder what Austen could possibly find to say about so fortunate a character. The answer is, quite a lot. For Emma, raised to think well of herself, has such a high opinion of her own worth that it blinds her to the opinions of others. The story revolves around a comedy of errors: Emma befriends Harriet Smith, a young woman of unknown parentage, and attempts to remake her in her own image. Ignoring the gaping difference in their respective fortunes and stations in life, Emma convinces herself and her friend that Harriet should look as high as Emma herself might for a husband--and she zeroes in on an ambitious vicar as the perfect match. At the same time, she reads too much into a flirtation with Frank Churchill, the newly arrived son of family friends, and thoughtlessly starts a rumor about poor but beautiful Jane Fairfax, the beloved niece of two genteelly impoverished elderly ladies in the village. As Emma's fantastically misguided schemes threaten to surge out of control, the voice of reason is provided by Mr. Knightly, the Woodhouse's longtime friend and neighbor. Though Austen herself described Emma as "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," she endowed her creation with enough charm to see her through her most egregious behavior, and the saving grace of being able to learn from her mistakes. By the end of the novel Harriet, Frank, and Jane are all properly accounted for, Emma is wiser (though certainly not sadder), and the reader has had the satisfaction of enjoying Jane Austen at the height of her powers. --Alix Wilber
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Emma, a masterpiece & nice supplemental material
Posted by Laurel Ann on 10/6/2008
For me, reading Jane Austen's novel EMMA is a delight. However, not all readers have been in agreement with me over the years including Jane Austen herself who warned her family before publication "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." She was of course making fun of herself in her own satirical way; - her critics on the other hand, were quite serious. When the book was published in 1815, Austen sent a copy to her contemporary author Maria Edgeworth who gave up reading the novel after the first volume, passing it on to friend and complaining, "There is no story in it." Others had mixed feelings offering both praise and blame for its focus on the ordinary details of a few families in a country village. One important advocate of Emma was Sir Walter Scott, whose essay published in the Quarterly Review of 1815 represents the most important criticism on Austen's writing during her lifetime. Even though the review was published anonymously, she must have been quite giddy when the reviewer heralded her EMMA as a `new style of novel' designed to `suit modern times'. Heady stuff to be sure. When it was later learned that Scott had contributed the review, it would placed Jane Austen in a whole other league of writers.
EMMA can be enjoyed on different levels, and for pure humour and witty dialogue it may reign as Austen's supreme triumph. Just Google quotes from EMMA and you might agree that it has the best bon mots of any of her novels. Modern critics claim it as her masterpiece, and I do not doubt it. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE may be the most beloved and well know of her works, but Emma represents Austen at the height of her writing skill and power as a story teller. Like some of Austen's contemporaries, the modern reader might find challenges in its minutiae and supposed lack of story. Not to worry. There are many sources available to assist in understanding Jane Austen's subtle and often witty dialogue, her unique characterizations, and help place the novel in historical context.
One source to consider is the new 2008 edition of EMMA, by Oxford World's Classics. Recently revised in 2003, this re-issue contains the same supplemental and textual material with a newly designed cover. For a reader seeking a medium level of support to help them along in their understanding you will be happy to find a thoughtful 23 page introduction by associate Professor of English and Women's Studies Adela Pinch of the University of Michigan. The essay contains a brief introduction, and segments on Shopping and Suburbia, Narrative Voices: Gossip and the Individual, The Politics of Knowledge, and Emma: Much Ado About Nothing?. Her emphasis is on understanding Austen's choice of writing about the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of the lives of its heroine Emma Woodhouse and her circle of family and friends in Highbury, a small English village in which she sets about to match make for all of its singletons blundering hilariously along the way. I particularly appreciated Prof. Pinch's positive comments throughout the essay.
"Austen makes voices stick in the mind through her use of free indirect discourse, which makes character's voice seem indelible, capable of soaking into other beings. But she also uses the same technique for representing thought. Her cultivation of this mode of representing her heroines' minds has made her novels crucial to the history of the English novel, markers of a movement when the novel as a literary genre perfects its inward turn, and begins to claim human psychology as its territory. Above all it creates the feeling of intimacy with her heroines that many readers prize." Page xvii-xviii
If I may be so bold and interject as the everyman Austen reader for a moment, parts of this essay are scholarly and touch on areas beyond my immediate understanding, especially when she delves into the philosophical and psychological pedantry. For the most part, Prof. Pinch's essay is written in accessible language and is reverent and admiring to the author and the heroine. I found this outlook refreshing since the heroine Emma, and the novel EMMA have received some criticisms for their shortcomings over the centuries. The novel is about so much more than the "no story" that Maria Edgeworth hastily condemned it to be. I especially adore Emma's little friend Harriet Smith and think her much maligned in the recent movie adaptations, and well - can there ever be enough praise bestowed upon Mrs. Elton? She is comedic genius and worthy of a nomination to the literary comedy hall of fame.
Professor Pinch has also supplied the helpful explanatory notes throughout the text which are numbered on the page allowing the reader to refer to the back of the book for explanation. Honestly, I prefer them to be footnoted at the bottom of the page instead of riffling back and forth, but that is a quibble on convenience. The remainder of the supplemental material; Biography of Jane Austen, Note on the Text, Select Bibliography, Chronology of Jane Austen, Appendix A: Rank and Social Status, and Appendix B: Dancing are repeated throughout the other Jane Austen editions in this series.
This Oxford edition is a sweet little volume at an incredible price if you are in the market for a middlin amount of supplemental material from reputable sources containing an authorative text edited for the modern reader. If you enjoy matchless wit and irony, unforgettable characters, and a unique story that turns the everyday imaginings of a young Georgian era woman into an extraordinary story filled with a comedy of manners and romance, then take note; - Miss Emma Woodhouse commands you to purchase this book immediately!
Laurel Ann, Austenprose
Posted by Briana J on 10/16/2005
I tried to read this book when I was in middle school and quickly returned it to the shelf when I found it slow and boring. I decided to give it another try and couldn't believe that I hadn't enjoyed it before. "Emma" is not a work of deep and intense literature, but Austen deftly explores human motives and emotions. Emma is consumed by the class system and buys into its importance, much like Mr. Darcy in "Pride and Prejudice." Emma feels she has the power to change the system, especially where her friend Harriet Smith is concerned. Emma must find out the hard way about class distinctions and friendship.
I'm not an avid Austen reader, in fact I'm quite a novice as far as she is concerned. Maybe after I've read some more of her novels I won't value "Emma" as highly, but for now, this novel is high up on my list, and I enthusiastically reccomend it.
Posted by Anonymous on 10/12/2005
Emma is a great classic novel and probably one of Jane Austen's best! If you like this book I also suggest the wonderful movie adaptations. Both the one starring Gwynneth Paltrow and the one starring Kate Beckinsale are quite lovely!
ONE OF JANE AUTENS BEST NOVELS!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Anonymous on 7/8/2003
This book is one of the best books by Jane Austen. It is well up there with Pride and Prejudice. This book clearly was one that glowed with the brightness of Austens fresh sence of humor. You will find yourself laughing out loud at almot all of the book. It is a little longer that Pride And Prejudice, but it still has the same magic that only Jane's books could produce.
Emma Woodhouse is one that almost everyone can relate to. You cant help but learn to love her, laugh at her, and get angry with her, after she makes a couple of mistakes. She really is horrible at "matchmaking" and creates trobble when she trys it out on her friends. She is one with a kind soul, but still has weaknesses that all humans have, such as jelousy and pride. She also has the heart that will never fall for a man. (or does she?)
You will be taken on a ride as Emma finds out what she can handle and what will happen when things go wronge.
This book will take you into the hearts and minds of all of the charachters in the book. They will become a part of your life and you will find that you can not stop thinking of them until you put the book down after finishing it. It draws you in, as does every Jane Austen book, and it will not leave you disaponted in the end. This whole book is jam-packed with romance, humor, and social status. Did I mention that this book is very halarious???? It is a MUST READ for anyone out there that likes a good plot woven with love and friend ship. It will leave you smiling and sighing that it is over. It really is one of the best books written!...
6 stars for content, standard binding, good introduction
Posted by A. Woodley on 10/8/2005
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this book at all. It is a very good read, in a very standard binding. You get a good introduction to it and some nice notes which are helpful.
This is set in contemporary times to Austen, and was the heroine which Austen least liked. Emma Woodhouse is young, rich and single. She lives a life of wealth and privilege in a small village just outside of London. In her world, and in her village she is queen. However there are flaws in her character which will be tested.
Austen liked to write about small things, about daily life, and the petty things which people in small communities become obsessed with. And so into Emma's life come the scatter-brained Harriet Smith the daughter of "someone" who cobbles together what learning she might at a local ladies academy. Emma adopts her and tries to help her make her way in the world by finding her a good match.
Emma's fine world is disrupted when first Mr Elton moves to the village, and then marries a rather smart but upstart woman who wishes to manage everyone's life.
Austen's skill in reflecting Emma and her machinations for good, against Mrs Elton and her machinations for her own good are gloriously done.
Emma is a brilliant novel and its themes are universal and timeless, it is all about the things in life which never change - love, pride, marriage, status and money.
Don't watch dreadful movie adaptations of this book (like the one Gwyneth Paltrow did) the book is much sharper, wittier and subtler. It is greatly enjoyable reading. The introduction may (or may not) help you to greater understanding of her ability to write with a light, sharp pen. Hopefully the story will stand out for its brilliance.