Published in 1816, “Emma” is considered a Jane Austen masterpiece, second best in her works after “Pride and Prejudice”. It was the last of her published works during her life.
“Emma” is a story of a beautiful, rich and clever girl who finds her share of love after and in spite of a lot of mistakes on her part.
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Emma Woodhouse lives with her doting father and is mistress of the house at quite a young age as her mother passed away long before and her elder sister Isabella is happily married and lives in London. The story begins with Emma’s governess, and one of her most intimate friends for long time, Ms. Taylor getting married to Mr. Weston and leaving her. Mr. Woodhouse is an old man with settled habits who doesn’t like things to change. Emma, having everything a girl of her age could wish for i.e., beauty, money and intelligence, is left on her own to find some occupation and amusement for herself.
Perfect, though Emma seems, she has her faults: lack of resolution to engage herself seriously in her studies, a want of consideration in her behaviour to others at times and a tendency to make matches for people around her, to name a few. Mr. Knightley, an intimate friend of the family and Isabella’s brother-in-law, is the only one of their regular and near acquaintance who reproaches Emma on such points, now and then.
After Ms. Taylor’s marriage, Emma befriends a pretty, orphan girl called Harriet who is studying at a boarding school in the village and takes it in her head that she should marry a gentleman of her acquaintance, Mr. Elton. Despite Mr. Knightley’s cautioning her against doing anything to propel the match, Emma successfully convinces Harriet about her being in love with Mr. Elton.
She also persuades her to say no to the marriage proposal by a respectable young man, who manages his farm. But alas, Mr. Elton declares himself to be in love with Emma instead. When rejected by Emma, he leaves the village and returns only after securing a wealthy woman as his wife.
Meanwhile, Mr. Weston’s son from first marriage, Frank Churchill, comes to the village to meet his mother-in-law and everybody thinks him the most suitable match for Emma. Frank, who is handsome, an heir to his maternal uncle whose surname he has adopted and well-behaved soon becomes a part of Emma’s circle of friends. Another addition to the circle is a beautiful and accomplished girl of Emma’s age called Jane. Jane is an orphan and have been at school to attain such skills as would enable her to earn her livelihood by becoming a governess. She has come to visit her aunt and grandmother who are very good friends of the Woodhouses.
Though Emma and Frank do like talking to each other, and to every other eye they seem to be flirting with each other, Emma’s actual intention is to secure Frank for Harriet. But, after many interesting ups and downs, a secret is finally revealed: Frank Churchill has been secretly engaged for last six months to none other than Jane and it was after Jane that he came to the village in the first place.
Emma’s friends feel bad for Emma and Emma feels bad for Harriet, but as much as Emma’s feelings were untouched by Frank, Emma discovers that Harriet also does not have any tender feelings for Frank. Who is Harriet in love with then for last few months? And why does that knowledge comes as a bolt of lightening (painful but illuminating) to Emma? Does Emma really know her heart? Is she in love with someone without realising it? Will she find her man at last, who would love and cherish her as she is?
Full of interesting characters and their intertwined stories of courtships and loves, “Emma” is a highly eventful tale where characters appear to be chasing one another in the game of love. And where there is love, there is misunderstanding, jealously and heart breaks.
Jane Austen’s mastery in dealing with romances between people of different natural dispositions, characters, temperament and social status is well displayed here. The book is a lot of fun to read as you encounter the courtships and their results one after another revealing the idiocies and discontinuities in the human characters, who appear at times their best and/or their worst depending on their circumstances.
A witty, funny, totally entertaining story…………..Enjoy reading…..