Adventures in Reading

Reading Jane Austen’s Emma
November 28, 2007, 2:08 pm
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While reading Emma last evening it struck me that no matter how close of a reading I do, it seems with Austen (in particular) that a first reading of any of her novels really is only an appetizer. Over the past few months I have read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and now I am half way through Emma. I have gained a new appreciation and great respect for Austen as an author, but I still very much feel a babe in the woods when it comes to everything Austen.

I certainly did not expect to become an Austen expert over a few short months, but I did not realize how complex, dense, and delicious Austen is. Emma has certainly started to grow on me, and I recently expressed to my friend that I now have a great desire to rewatch the movie Clueless. In many ways, Emma thus far is the lightest of the Austen novels that I have read. Emma Woodhouse, unlike Austen’s other heroines, faces no serious trouble (at least not yet!) in comparison to the possible bleak futures that confronted Austen’s other leading ladies.

For the most part, Emma is a wealthy socialite in a small town setting. Perhaps it is Emma’s rustic settings that establish her as an exotic bloom, but she prevails as a talented person in the womanly arts. Emma self-identifies as an early 19th Century Yenta where she spends a good deal of her time matchmaking. This struck an interesting chord with me as I recall one of the Austen etiquette guides stating that matchmaking was certainly not the thing to do!

Emma also stands out as Austen seems to be developing a different perspective on her oft used love theme, but she still remains distant from the female bond present in Pride and Prejudice an Sense and Sensibility. This past Monday I gave my presentation on Pride & Prejudice, which was quite the success and I am still plowing through Austen criticism to help with my paper.

I can not seem to get enough of Jane Austen paper dolls. This post’s image is from and is a lovely illustration of Emma Woodhouse.


I am starting to like Emma. In fact, Clueless first made me think of the character as someone I could like. I hope you rent the movie. It is a little gem.

Comment by Ms. Place

I too need to read Emma over again. To tell the truth, I got bored of it the first time around! I agree, it is a happy plot–no family disgraces or poverty looming as in her other novels. Northanger Abbey is also an uplifting read–I enjoyed this one quite a lot.

Comment by laura

Ms. Place: I first saw Clueless when it came out (but long before I had any idea who Austen was) and I am sure I have seen it since, but never with Austen in mind. As soon as my semester at school is over I am totally splurging and delving into Clueless.

Laura: Glad to hear I am not the only one that has been a bit bored with Emma! It is improving the more I read, but I think it’s a novel that demands the right type of mood and atmosphere. Perhaps an early summer read, but my reading tastes demand more in the late fall.

Comment by bookchronicle

Emma IS a wee bit long and long winded. I just listened to it as a book on tape. Where Northanger Abbey held me enthralled as I drove up and down I-95, Emma contained many passages that simply bored me. I had to drink coffee to stay awake.

Comment by Ms. Place

I’m almost done with my installments of P&P from Daily Lit, and this is my 3rd or 4th times, I forgot. But, nothing compares to actually visiting the places where JA had lived. My recent travel to Bath has furthermore heightened my admiration for her writings.

Comment by Arti

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