On Jane Austen’s Emma

Here I am, with a brief review of my second book of the year, Emma. If you have been following us you know that we are doing a 20 books for 2020 challenge. Although it has been a slow start we are continuing reading and sharing.

After I read a book, I start to research about it to see what other people think. I was surprised to see that –

– Jane Austen and her works are looked down upon, because she writes about the simple daily life and stays in the ‘neat borders’ as Charlotte Bronte stated. DH Lawrence found her world snobbish, while Vladimir Nabokov told that he saw nothing in Pride and Prejudice.

On the other hand, more contemporary authors have different views of her work. Samuel Beckett for example, stated that he has a lot to learn from her. It is interesting how the perception of her works has changed over years, and started to be cherished as people realize that Emma is actually an experimental novel and maybe even started a different kind of narration technique.

Emma was written in 1814, published over 200 years ago. Jane Austen’s take on the narration is quite grabbing because we follow Emma with her misunderstandings and judgements even though the story is a third person narrative. Emma thinks that she knows the best and senses the people’s romantic inclinations, thus she takes the matchmaking job for her friend Harriet, whom she finds inferior to herself. Emma feels the need to guide Harriet for a superior life. Emma’s arrogance is hidden behind her goodwill to match the best and improve the situations for everybody’s favor. Mistaken and self-deceived, she actually messes up the relationships but her dominancy over the events remains the same throughout the novel. Since we follow Emma’s consciousness, we often see a reality distorted through Emma’s sense, but Jane Austen does give out hints through the warnings from other characters.

Overall, the novel does not have big events with dramatic conclusions, but the slow pace of a small town gave an enjoyable read to me. At times I had to go back a paragraph or two to fully grasp what was going on because of the language, but I did like the old English and the extra polite talks. In the foreword, the novel is mentioned as ‘a sweet story about nothings’ but discovering an old English town and the residents’ mundane struggles especially for relationships make the novel interesting. Before writing this book, Jane Austen has told that she was going to write a heroine whom none but Austen will much like, but she was mistaken. Even though Emma is spoiled and selfish young woman, we forgive her and her self deception, enjoying her journey.

I found an article about Emma, if you want to read more about the book, take a look. But I warn you, it has a lot of spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book already I suggest you to wait until you finish the book before the article.

By the way, Övgü and I made a video about our second reads for 2020. It is in Turkish but still take a look! 🙂

Click here for Övgü’s Turkish post on Henrik Ibsen’s plays.

So this was my second book of the year 2020, and I hope you are coming along with our 20 books for 2020 challenge. Write in the comments!

Love,

Öykü

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