9.16.2009

#9. Emma

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"I shall not scold you. I leave you to your own reflections."

"Can you trust me with such flatterers? Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?"


Author: Jane Austen

Synopsis: Emma Woodhouse has the position--lucky or otherwise--of being richer and cleverer than almost everyone else she knows. Her father is too aged, shallow, and sedentary to keep up with her; her governess is more like a chum; the other well-educated girl in town is reserved and cool with her; and only Mr. Knightley, her friend and neighbor, ever offers her anything like straightforward correction. She does well enough till she makes a project of a pretty school-girl, however, and when her governess's new stepson comes to town with much charm and flirtation, she is high-spirited enough to play his games. Matchmaking and flirting nearly prevent Emma from gaining knowledge of her own heart and the one man who could hold it well.

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Emma did not start off as my favorite Austen novel, but it has grown on me a lot in the last few years. Perhaps the lead character's growth in understanding the vital importance of honour, both in self and in the person chosen as a spouse, have raised it in my esteem. Is it weird that I like "the moral of the story" so much? I don't know. Morals work in story only if the story takes precedence in both author's and readers' minds, and nobody did this better than Miss "Manners and Morals" herself, Jane Austen.

Mr. Knightley is right up at the top of my "Great Fictional Heroes" list. He is honest, good-natured (most of the time), and has solid opinions which he is not afraid to voice when necessary. He also has the invaluable skills of being a gentleman when others are fools and jerks and of drawing boundaries and making sure they are not crossed.

I enjoyed the Kate Beckinsale movie adaptation and have seen it several times, but did not so much like the Gwyneth Paltrow one (though I don't really remember why).

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