Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Emma By Jane Austen

I just finished reading Emma (actually listening in this case) for about the third time. I like this book. I think some of the reason I like it so well is that I watched the Gweneth Paltrow version of Emma before reading the book. Although the movie is pretty inaccurate in itself, it’s a happy film and I always got a good feeling watching it. I have a sneaking suspicion that this has coloured my view of the book.

What I like about Auten books in general is that she has such a good variety of characters. Just when you’ve had quite enough of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Bates comes along to entertain you. Both characters on their own are maddening, but are quite amusing when taken in turns. Although I really would like to slap Mrs. Elton into the middle of next month on more than one occasion in the course of the novel. She is horrifically annoying, which just serves to illustrate Austen’s talents. Austen’s characters all inspire emotion in the reader, lots of emotion. You usually either love or hate them and the aversion you feel for those you hate is usually quite strong – to the point of wanting to slap them into the middle of next month (Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Norris – slapfest anyone?). She uses the feeling she creates for the characters to make her point. No one in their right mind would actually want to emulate a Mrs. Elton or Mrs. Norris, rather you would probably go a great deal out of your way not to. She uses the same method to illustrate points with her “good” characters as well. Nothing makes you cringe so much as Emma’s blunder on Box Hill when she insulted to good Mrs. Bates so distinctly in front of half of the party. The more you like Emma, the more you cringe at her insolence. Austen uses this to point out that even the rich have both material and moral obligations towards those less fortunate than themselves.

Finally, I like that all of her messages in the book are as applicable today as they were then. The settings may have changed, but the implications are the same. No one is going to like you if you are constantly putting people down, scheming in other people’s lives is never a good idea, we have obligations to others less fortunate than ourselves etc. etc.

Oh yes, and the romantic bit is good too. Nothing like a good romance.

2 comments:

mari said...

So true. I would cringe anytime Frank Churchill wold call on Bates' because of the cringing caused by Miss Bates incessant talking. Of course, we know why he insisted on visiting and including them in everything, but Miss Bates does grate. It is very easy to forgive Emma's blunder even though we know it was such a terrible social faux pas. How many time shave we done this or almost done this? Very relatable.

Athena said...

Hi, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. First your review: I concur about Austen's characters. She is a master at characterization. I think she has many annoying characters, but some incredibly human ones. Emma is wrong so many times in this book, but we forgive her and I never quite get bothered by her. She's young and naive certainly, but it's understandable.

As for The Name of the Rose question, I have not seen the movie, but the Wikipedia article on the movie actually outlines some of the differences, mainly that you get less of the discussion of theology, philosophy, medieval politics than you do in the book. It's not always very descriptive, but it is a rather long novel and post-modern so it's not quite a ride in the book.

Good luck. Cheers.