Friday, December 26, 2008


At the beginning of the year 1814, Jane Austen, already author of 3 other complete novels, picked up her pen to introduce a character, whom, said she, "no one but myself will much like." However, the book was published in 1816, and the charm and endearment of Emma Woodhouse and the characters surrounding her have not yet, after nearly 200 years, lost their hold on eager readers.

The novel's title, Emma, declares directly the subject of the story: the "handsome, clever, and rich" Emma Woodhouse. Emma is the second of two daughters of an simple, elderly widower. She is a young woman of great importance in her social circle, and is very witty, and the problem is... she knows it! She enjoys arranging other people's lives, especially in the area of matrimony. The story, set in the early 1800's during the "Regency" era, opens with the marriage of Emma's governess, Miss Taylor, a match which Emma prides herself on having arranged herself. Encouraged by this "success", she takes on match-making for other people around her. But whether it is with the sweet, simple, artless Harriet Smith; the handsome and engaging vicar, Mr. Elton; or her former governess' charming stepson, Frank Churchill, her plans all seem to go ridiculously wrong, and her efforts to match up others cause her to nearly mistakeand loseher own perfect match in an unlikely, longtime friend.

Though not necessarily considered a Christian book, Emma presents values and lessons very applicable to the Christian life. It is exciting to see throughout the story, as Emma's plans go wrong, that she realizes that she is not as good and clever as she thought, and that she has very much to learn herself, after having thought and acted for so long like she had "nothing to learn", as Mr. Knightly says. When she insults Miss Bates at the picnic on Box Hill, her eyes are opened to the difference between charity and true kindness. I also appreciate her regret towards the end when she realizes she actually has harmed Harriet by trying to make her self-sufficient and socially superior like herself. Emma learns the importance of humility and true love (love towards others as well as between a man and a woman). Though the book doesn't point to Jesus Christ as our example, or refer the reader to rely on the Holy Spirit for help to do right, we can draw useful lessons from Emma and willingly turn to Christ for His help to apply them.

I had watched two movie adaptions of Emma before reading the book, and though I enjoyed them, I didn't like the character of Emma very much at all. However, reading the book definitely endeared me better to the characters, deepened my understanding of several of the events, and, overall, supplied me with a better opinion and enjoyment for book the story itself, as well as Jane Austen's writing style.

Austen does write with delightful color and taste. True, in some parts, a long conversation with the talkative Miss Bates or the self-satisfied philodox Mrs. Elton may get a little wearisome, but otherwise it is very entertaining and picturesque. Often a side-comment, from herself, or from one of her characters, sets me giggling. She also builds the story very well, creating anticipation in the reader to find out what happens next. Many unexpected twists and turns, colorful characters, grand surprises, and meaningful conversations make it a delightful story not to be forgotten.

Note: The first picture in this post is from the Mirimax adaption of Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightly. The second picture is from the A&E version of Emma, starring Kate Beckinsdale as Emma and Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith. Both are excellent adaptions (I prefer the A&E one personally), and I recommend both, but I do suggest your reading the book first to get a fuller understanding of the story and the characters, and simply for the enjoyment of a good winter's read. If you are not a reader, however, you may just want to watch the movies. ;-)


juli said...

You are very funny Melanie! You and your Jane Austen stuff! Which version of Emma is the best?

And it seems no matter what sort of book you read there is always something you can pull out that could pertain to our Christian walk with the Lord. :)

Melanie said...

LOL, you can't beat Jane Austen! :-P

Personally, my favorite version of "Emma" is the A&E one, with Kate Beckinsdale. But both are good. The Mirimax version, with Gwyneth Paltrow, better follows the first part of the book, while the A&E emphasizes the second part more. The Mirimax one builds the "romance" better, but the A&E one captures the era better, I think. And I like Kate Beckinsdale as Emma Woodhouse much better than Gywneth Paltrow. Anyway, put both together and you get a pretty good rendition.

It may be that it is not your style at all, or we might all be suprised and you like it! Who knows!? :-)

Teddy said...

Mel Dear! I don't have time to read-BUT I CAN READ!!!!!!!

Melanie said...

EM hem! I almost thought of deleted your comment, for such atrocious name-calling.


Melanie said...

Oh yeah, can you read my blog now? I changed the font color!

Leah said...

I love Jane Austin's Emma! It's one of my favorites!

Teddy said...

Yes! That was what I was trying to tell you! This font is WAY better!
I LOVE Jane Austen! I've only read Pride and Prejudice-but I LOVE IT!!!!! I haven't seen Emma except for a hour or so of the A & E version like 6 years ago. Swoosh! Right over my little pigtails!
Which book is your favorite?
Oh, and i'm sorry about messin' with thy christened name... but I was seriously in too much of a rush to type your full name! Sounds corny - but tis true!!!

Melanie said...

Yay! I'm glad you can read it now! :-D

I'm not sure which is my favorite. I've read four of her books now, and have watched movies on all but Northanger Abbey. It's hard to say which is my favorite.... I like 'em all. But the A&E Pride and Prejudice remains steadfast, so maybe that's my favorite. LOL ;-)

And as to my name, if thou art in too much of a rush, just write "Em". "Emmie" is what some of my penpals call me; it stands for my initials: M + E = Emmie. Get it? Hee hee. ;-)

Thanks for commenting, dear friend! :-D

Ana said...

Emma is a good movie. However, I watched the one with Gwyneth Paltrow and my first thought was, "That couldn't have been a Jane Austen movie. I couldn't stand Emma." But I've now come to enjoy it.

I love Jane Austen. She writes very good and her stories are overall very entertaining and good. I'm reading through her novels. I've read three or four of them so far. Emma is one I haven't read yet, but sometime I hope to.

Melanie said...

Yes, like I said in my book report, I couldn't stand Emma Woodhouse either, until I read the book. I guess I get really annoyed at her stuck-up-ness in the movies. But the book is really good.
Which ones have you read? I've read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and (of course) Emma. :-)

Pure Little Ladies Ministry said...

Never read it before but maybe I will now. ^_^



Ana said...

The Jane Austen books I've read ... Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and I'm in the middle of Pride and Prejudice. Now all I have left are Emma and Northanger Abby ... I think. :)