The funniest and most sparkling of Jane Austen's novels, and the last one published in her lifetime. It is the story of Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, of old friend Mr Knightley, of the intrigues of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, and of a singularly eventful trip to Box Hill - er, well, eventful by Austenian standards anyway. Boffo. A good one.

...That was how I wrote it on Everything 1. Now here's some more (written 11th April 2001) for Everything 2...

Emma is the brightest of Jane Austen's comedies. Emma Woodhouse is a very intelligent and personable young woman with a lively sense of fun - or as the opening sentence says it far better than I can, "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."

She has a keen eye for romance and sees herself as a matchmaker. She believes herself instrumental in the marriage of her former governess, now mother-figure and friend, Miss Taylor, to their neighbour Mr Weston.

She does not envisage a romance or even a marriage for herself, which is oddly blind of her, for the reader knows upon his first appearance that she is to marry Mr Knightley, an old family friend, who has borne with her as a child and stood up to her freaks and foibles, the only person not dazzled by her superior talents. He cautions her against the folly of her matchmaking endeavours, but she playfully persists, believing that in such matters she has the superior discernment, skill, and subtlety.

Emma plucks from obscurity an artless, amiable, unintelligent creature called Harriet Smith, a "natural daughter" of some unknown gentleman, deposited at the local school: in her Emma sees potential for transformation into a goodly lady. She sets Harriet's sights on Mr Elton, the new clergyman. He however mistakes the intentions for those of Emma herself, and so encouraged, leaps upon her in a carriage and fulsomely woos her, which she rejects with horror.

With this her plans for poor Harriet are in ruins, and this reveals to herself the follies of playing at Lady Bountiful with other people's affections.

Her insight keeps failing her, yet she persists. Two new characters appear on the scene. Frank Churchill is Mr Weston's estranged son, prevented from attending on him as much as he would like by a superior foster-parent; but now Frank turns up in the village of Highbury and makes himself very popular. Even Emma begins to think that in him she might just possibly have met someone worthy of her hand. Another is Jane Fairfax, also that rare thing the equal of an Emma Woodhouse: as beautiful and talented and refined, but reserved where Emma is forthright. She and Mrs Weston worry whether Mr Knightley might not be paying too much attention to Miss Fairfax. Miss Woodhouse feels natural feminine feelings on this point, and cannot like Miss Fairfax entirely, however much she tries.

Jane is the granddaughter of Mrs Bates and niece of Miss Bates, two poor but honest worthies who are the object of Emma's kindly attentions. Mrs Bates is deaf, and proud of her Jane; Miss Bates is silly, and chatters too much: she is one of the many good comic creations of the novel. A serious point is made against Emma when in a pleasure expedition they all make to the local scenic viewpoint of Box Hill, Emma carelessly says something slighting and less than wholly kind about Miss Bates, within her hearing. Mr Knightley's reprimand mortifies her. This is another element that makes her think seriously about herself.

As does her remarkable discovery that Harriet, recovering from her slight at Mr Elton's hands by the well-meaning notice of Mr Knightley, now thinks that she might aspire to his heart: and Emma, to her growing horror, realises that she cannot rule it out on his part, but wants dearly to, for if anyone is to marry Mr Knightley, she, Emma, must.

Another comic character is Emma's valetudinarian father, who subsists on gruel, very thin gruel, and fears his guests will be harmed by any food they take, unless they be very small portions. He recommends his own doctor to anyone at the slightest hint of any illness.

Emma was the fourth and final novel published in her lifetime. By now Jane Austen was very famous indeed. The Prince Regent loved her novels and had copies in all his residences: by the intercession of his chaplain, who conducted a chatty correspondence with Jane Austen, he begged for the honour of having a novel dedicated to him. She did so, coolly, for she did not much approve of the Prince Regent. It appeared at the beginning of 1816, and with that she turned her hand to her last and greatest novel, Persuasion.

There are two reasons to watch the Miramax movie of this Jane Austen novel: Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. But Ewan himself hated his performance and hid under a couch at the premiere. Not surprising since his character, Frank Churchill, was a lying, scheming jerk who sang like a pompous windbag.

If you want to see a funny version of this story, check out Clueless. Instead of the tired old secret engagement shite used in who knows how many other of her novels, there is a gay character, which is much more interesting. He's not as much of a jerk either.

If you want to see a good Jane Austen romance movie, see Sense and Sensibility.

I do have to mention one very good scene in this movie: the archery scene. Emma and Mr. Knightly are doing target practice and talking about her matchmaking, and her aim keeps getting worse. It's a nice summary of the movie as a whole.

I watched “Emma” and the more I see Gwyneth the more I understand her appeal. I used to think she had this forced elegance and this weird chicken bone figure and a square mannish face; in summary I didn’t get why she had this enigma that people spoke of. Plus I read interviews that painted her as a self-satisfied catty priss.
Emma is not the type of movie I would have once picked up. In fact, the only reason I did is because out of the 65 or so videos stacked up in the living room, it was the only one I haven’t seen, just about. I knew how the story would basically go, because I knew that Clueless was based on it, and what teenage girl hasn’t seen Clueless? I loved how it had that garden of earthly delights quality, how the simple little, beautiful thing, is worth your worship. A ribbon takes on significance. Snaking ivory garden seats in the middle of light dappled shrubbery. Intricate, fragile teacups and the faint ascension of mist over a fragrant infusion.

In summary, it is sensous. and romantique.

The Satirical Depiction of Manners in Emma
Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.

These lines are the second formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative, emphasizing a moral obligation to abstain from both the exploitation of one’s self and others for the mere sake of achievement. In Emma, Jane Austen postulates a morality of manners, governing and facilitating the social interactions of an English-village. However, these manners lie in conflict with the categorical imperative, as they do not account for the potential of disingenuous inward motivations belying the outward appearance of morality. Moreover, Emma Woodhouse’s ignorance to this Kantian morality is revealed quite readily through her socially politic relationship with the kind-hearted chatterbox, Miss Bates.

Certainly, one of Miss Bates’ most distinguishing characteristics is her uncanny habit of prattling about everything around her; treating trivialities and crucialities with similar degrees of import; flowing from one topic to a seemingly unrelated discussion of another without stopping to take a breath. Expression of her thoughts is of such importance to Miss Bates, that her long-winded treatments of the mundane take on a comical nature in the novel. In one scene, Emma visits the Bates’ humble apartment to drop in on Miss Bates as an apparent sign of good faith, in reality a shallow attempt to boost her popularity in the eyes of Mr. Knightley. As the scene progresses, it digresses into a series of Miss Bates’ disjointed and unfinished stories on a petty letter from Jane Fairfax and fawning compliments on the part of Emma. In discord with the categorical imperative, Emma is simply using Miss Bates as a means to an end. Emma really could care less as to the daily happenings of Highbury’s “second and third rate” (102). It is in this way that Austen discloses the absurdity inherent in a morality of manners, the motivation for the act is as important as the act itself. Emma acts in accordance with moral law, however, she disregards the notion of acting with respect to it, because this is all that manners require of her.

Furthermore, the incident at Box Hill regarding Miss Bate’s self-degrading comment, “‘I shall be sure to say at least three dull things as soon as I open my mouth, shan’t I,’ (looking around with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent), ” and Emma’s bitingly sardonic comment that follows reveal true nature of Emma’s immorality (249). Previously and under the guise of a friendly visit, Emma used Miss Bates as the means to a personal end and Miss Bates was none the wiser. While discordant with the categorical imperative, Emma still behaves in accordance with her morality of manners. In stark contrast, her actions at the Box Hill Picnic are not only in conflict with the overlying Kantian morality, but also with Highbury’s social code of conduct. Emma sought to use Miss Bates’ critical remark as a tool for the mere orchestration of a witty insult much to the chagrin of Miss Bates and the disgust of Mr. Knightley.

Because Emma does not treat Miss Bates as an end in and of herself, with intrinsic worth and dignity, she is a morally irresponsible individual. This is wherein the satirical depiction of manners is revealed; Austen employs a diminution from universal moral standards to the confines of correct social conduct in Highbury. She gracefully comments on the moral irresponsibility of society, employing an ironic wit, not devoid of charm and humor. And, it is this aspect of Austen’s novel which distinguishes it from the class of mere romantic comedy and defines its presence as great 19th century literature.

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