Just as John Green writes novels for, and about, sad and love-sick teens in the modern age, Jane Austen wrote for, and about, the English high society. Her 1815 novel, “Emma” is no exception.
Emma Woodhouse is the prettiest, richest, and vainest woman in Highbury, a village in Surrey.
She is determined to play matchmaker to those around her because she believes that in doing so, she is being charitable to the lonely.
When her governess marries and leaves her, Emma finds a new project to bide her time with: Charlotte Smith.
Emma views Charlotte as a downtrodden and awkward woman that Emma wants desperately to transform into a proper lady, despite Charlotte’s social status and the advice of her friend and brother-in-law, Mr. Knightley.
During her training of Charlotte, Emma begins to look at the men around her and begins to wonder if she will find love and, specifically, with who.
The entire novel focuses on the relationships of the people in and around, Emma’s social class. “Emma” is a classic example of a romantic comedy, although Emma often believes she knows everything about everyone’s relationships, when in all actuality, knows nothing.
“Emma” is an excellent read, just as any Jane Austen novel is, and only contains one unlikeable character: Emma.
Although Emma is the title character, she is just plain insufferable, through no fault of her own. It is rumored that Jane Austen set out to write a novel about an unlikeable main character, which she definitely succeeded in.
Perhaps Emma’s proper, and mildly condescending character, was better received in the nineteenth century. Emma Woodhouse, in the modern day, would probably be a more polite version of Paris Hilton.
However, characters like Charlotte, the dashing Mr. Knightley, and the charming Mr. Churchill round out Austen’s literary world.
Everyone should read at least one Jane Austen novel during their lifetimes because, for one, people will assume you’re super classy if they hear you dropping some Jane Austen knowledge and two, Austen’s society so greatly contrasts our own that it is just fascinating to read about a world that focuses on silly things, like match making and fancy dinner parties.
“Emma” has been adapted into two feature films, a 1996 movie of the same title starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, which was nominated for two Academy Awards. Also, in the 1995 movie “Clueless,” starring Alicia Silverstone as a modern day matchmaker with very little sense about her.
Paige Jurgensen / Columnist \
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at email@example.com