Jane Austen January: Re-visiting Emma

Emma had to be the first book to read as a part of Jane Austen January because the first joys of reading it years ago remained with me. And I must say it was just like visiting an old friend’s when I read it now. It is a formidable book in terms of size and a masterpiece in terms of the one and only captivating character- Emma. In no other book have I found myself so freely, without any ambiguity in deciding, declaring that the heroine is the one who is to be admired the most. I love her sensibility, as they say, and that innocence which is so characteristic of her and her alone.

After reading so much of Austen I no more seek to understand her style and writing but just admire it. I haven’t read any accounts of Austen’s personal life as yet, unfortunately. But as I understood from the movie ‘Becoming Jane’, Austen was determined to give her readers excellent suitors for her heroine. I read Emma much before I read Pride and Prejudice for the first and even after Mr. Knightley stuck on to his No.1 position in my view. Of all the things I love in Jane Austen’s books it is the starkly different men that she introduces. The very name, Knighley, so regal and stoic, captured my heart. And then his unfaltering, noble love for the one girl who enraptured him, even when she was just thirteen!

Though Pride and Prejudice is touted be her best, Emma I personally feel surpasses it by being more than just a love story. There isn’t blind passion, and most of all there’s no hurry at all. Everyone is done justice and there’s happiness. I love this most about this book. Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father is another ingenious creation, a formidable check to the progress of fast-moving love. But not once does his character seem as an impediment, neither to Emma nor to the reader. He is one cute character who I always enjoy reading about. And the quaint country side, the gossips, the seriously hilarious misunderstandings, the apologies, the parties amply provided for the drought of Austen’s world that I faced last year.

If there’s one thing I admire more than the story itself, it’s the long letters that Austen never fails to include. I hope I can someday be able to write a fictional letter half that length, with the same quality and also find faults with it. Every time I read them I seriously feel for the loss of the art. One of the main reasons that reading Austen is so delightful for me is that even in the midst of prejudice and class conflicts the importance of humaneness shines forth. It provides me with the re-assurances that I sometimes need when caught in the quagmire of life.

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” said she afterwards to herself. “There is nothing to be compared to it. Warmth and tenderness of heart, with an affectionate, open manner, will beat all the clearness of head in the world, for attraction, I am sure it will. It is tenderness of heart which makes my dear father so generally beloved—which gives Isabella all her popularity.—I have it not—but I know how to prize and respect it.—

It’s also interesting to note that it was just a matter of talking a small idea out and a whole bunch of people end up at a picnic or a party. And there’s no dearth for humour too in Emma. This is one excerpt that I love:

“Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider;—you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. I am no young lady on her preferment. Married women, you know, may be safely authorized. It is my party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests.”

“No,”—he calmly replied,—”there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is——”

“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.

“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”

Though there’s very little description of places in this book it still is exciting to imagine it. And now these are for your pleasant perusal:

Image courtesy: JASNA

Box Hill

~ You may also want to read this informative and insightful article Adoring the Girl Next Door: Geography in Austen’s Novels  
(The next thing for me will be to hunt for the DVD because I haven’t watched it as yet. Be sure to tell me about it if you’ve seen it)
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