Austen for Beginners

Emma - start here!

Emma Woodhouse is our heroine - an imperfect heroine, but a heroine just the same. She fancies herself as a bit of a matchmaker, but it all goes horribly wrong. Our hero is Mr Knightley, who is the only person who not only sees through Emma's too-good-to-be-true exterior, but is brave enough to tell her so. Some great secondary characters, including Harriet Smith, Emma's slightly soppy friend, who is the victim of one of her unsuccessful matchmaking schemes, and Mr Woodhouse, Emma's hypochondriac father.

Classic quotes from the novel ...
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence;
Our introduction to Emma. No hint here of what is to come, but that's just Jane Austen's way of setting us up for a surprise. Or not.

“A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do."
Ah - she's a bit of a snob, then. Actually, make that more than a bit.

"She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing everything."
Mr Knightley's opinion of Harriet Smith. As far as he is concerned, the friendship could be a bit of a disaster for both girls.

"I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him....But do not imagine that I want to influence you."

Emma telling Harriet that she should not marry Mr Martin, in her own way. She's got someone else in mind for Harriet...

"Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives."
Mr Knightley being sensible again. This particular home truth does not appeal to Emma's sense of romance, nor does it fit with her matchmaking plans.

"My being charming, Harriet, is not quite enough to induce me to marry; I must find other people charming - one other person at least."
Emma explaining to Harriet her own philosophy on marriage. It doesn't stop her from planning marriage for other people, however.

Jane's curiosity did not appear of that absorbing nature as wholly to occupy her.

Miss Fairfax isn't that interested, then.

Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
This sums up the attitude of the population of Highbury to Mr Elton's new wife; she is bound to be handsome and charming, despite none of them ever having met her.

"You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."
"Brother and sister! no, indeed."

Emma talking to Mr Knightley, who although he is her brother-in-law, had rather forgotten that when she asked him to dance with her. Yes, we know it's the proper thing for him to ask her, but that's Emma for you.

"I hope I know better now, than to care for Mr Martin, or to be suspected of it."
Harriet, telling a horrified Emma that she is in love with Mr Knightley. She gets over it, though.

...and it was really too much to hope, even of Harriet, that she could be in love with more than three men in one year.

Mr Martin, Mr Elton and Mr Knightley are the three men in question. Two of them are now spoken for, which leaves the one she first thought of...

"You always called me 'Mr Knightley;' and, from habit, it has not so very formal a sound. And yet it is formal. I want you to call me something else, but I do not know what."

Mr Knightley to Emma, after their engagement. Dear me, has Mr Knightley forgotten what his first name is? Surely not...

“I remember once calling you 'George,' in one of my amiable fits, about ten years ago. I did it because I thought it would offend you; but, as you made no objection, I never did it again."

Emma seems to recall that Mr Knightley's name is George, but she's not sure it suits him.

“I can never call you anything but 'Mr Knightley'. "

He can never be George, by the sound of it.

In general, it was a very well approved match....upon the whole, there was no serious objection raised, except in one habitation, the Vicarage.

The Vicar disapproves? Oh, no - wait a moment, the Vicar is Mr Elton, whose proposal Emma declined, and whose wife doesn't like her. Disapproval from that household is only to be expected, really.

The fact was, as Emma could now acknowledge, that Harriet had always liked Robert Martin; and that his continuing to love her had been irresistible.

Harriet's future is assured. She is to marry a suitable man, whom she likes, and even though she turned him down the first time he proposed, the fact that he asked a second time is enough to convince her that he is Mr Right. What a very practical girl.

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade;...But in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

The wedding of Mr Knightley and Miss Emma Woodhouse. Ahhhh.....

If you'd like to know more about the story, click here:
Emma - the plot

If you'd like to read the original text, click here: Emma - the text

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Austen for Beginners 2008

Austen for Beginners   Pride and Prejudice   Sense and Sensibility   Emma   Mansfield Park   Northanger Abbey   Persuasion