Success Supposes Endeavour: Emma

Hello there peoples, and welcome to another review of another work of Austen. Why has brought this on? Well, that would be the starting of the new web-series by Hank Green and crew, Emma Approved. That will likely be reviewed at some point, but at the time of writing, only the first episode has aired so we can’t review that. What we can look at, however, is the novel which is nearly 200 years old, the simply titled Emma. Also, I’m saying it now, this novel is nearly 200 years old, you are not allowed to cry spoilers on me. Seriously, if you don’t know what happens, go read the Wikipedia article. But you’re smart people, Wanderers, I know you understand the statute of limitations on spoilers, and fully agree nearly 200 years is enough time for people to have at least done a Google search on a subject.

Emma title page

So, titular character Emma Woodhouse was a spoiled child and has grown up to believe that she knows best when it comes to matters of the heart, regardless of who that heart happens to belong to. She’s always seen her way to ordering her world in the way she wants it to be and no other, and sees no reason why this shouldn’t continue now as an adult. Well, 21 really, but in the time of Austen’s writing that was very grown up for a girl indeed. But if you’re expecting the usual poor but plucky heroine that Austen writes, Emma really isn’t that type of girl. She’s the Rich Girl, the girl who has everything she wants and therefore doesn’t really need to try anything to ‘better’ her lot in life. So not really to everyone’s taste, but let me assure you, the character development in this novel is so worth reading.

Emma meets the pretty, young, and a little bit silly and slow on the uptake Harriet Jones, and decides that she must set Harriet up with a husband who Emma deems is worthy of her charms and sweet nature. There’s hilarity ensuing, zany schemes, and it’s important to note here that Emma often dreams of things being grander than they really are so to her, Harriet’s background – which implies illegitimacy in a time in which it would be very taboo – must be something grand indeed. Of course, seeing as this is an Austen novel, eventually Emma’s got to see to the problem of her own love life, but the ride there is also filled with hilarity.

This actually is one of the funnier Austen novels, though that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own charming and decidedly heartbreaking and heartwarming moments to fill its pages. Emma herself, as I’ve mentioned, is really a one off in terms of an Austen heroine. She’s already rich and affluent, and from the description we’re given, she’s certainly among the most attractive of her lead characters. Of course, that bit doesn’t matter to Emma, she cares more that she’s intelligent and capable and clever – which can be a very different thing to being intelligent.

Of course, she’s also often a bit short sighted. Like I mentioned earlier, she often daydreams that the reasons behind things are much greater and grander than they actually are, which can mean she becomes very oblivious to what is clear in front of her face. Like her own feelings, for example. Emma is the nice version of the Rich Girl, we get the not so nice version about halfway through the novel and she is quite a piece of work, though of course, it’s all hidden under the manners and politeness that the society of the time demands.

And despite me giving a spoiler warning at the beginning of this review, I haven’t actually spoiled the book at all. Maybe some aspects of a couple of adaptations – not as many as Pride and Prejudice but we’re getting there – but overall, you’ve been left fairly spoiler free.

Emma is really one of Austen’s novels that ought to be checked out by anyone who likes reading, basically. It’s a fun book to read and the adaptations are fun to watch – my particular favourite being the 2009 BBC version – and the story is while, perhaps cliché now, still really enjoyable to read. As for Emma Approved? Well, one ep in and they’re going a little off script, and it’ll be interesting to see where they take it.

Z McAspurren (Now gonna watch Emma. I’m in that mood.)

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