Jane Austen’s Emma (1815)

The time has arrived; the moment that I finally read finished a Jane Austen novel. Being a literature student and, therefore, having all these Austen-groupies surrounding me, I could not avoid reading one. In my last winter break, I started reading the novel Emma in one of my reading fits (whenever I have a break, I try to read as much as possible). At that time, I had already finished six novels and, feeling encouraged by some other peers, I took up the book. Anxiously, it had been waiting in my bookcase for this day; the day I would take it in my hands and flip the pages. Unfortunately, I was not able to embrace the book in return.

When I started the book in January, I forcefully got through the first 200 pages. After that I did not look at it for at least a month out of frustration. Today, I finally finished it, going through the pages in a fast pace.

My main turn-off of the book is simply the general topic. The social environment, the characters and the everything-revolves-around-marriage-theme just do not interest me. I think that probably Mark Twain describes my feelings very adequate in the next quote: “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin bone.”

First of all, for the highly literal people amongst us, I am not a violent person. Second of all, of course, I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice but to me this quote counts for Emma as well and it is comforting to know that I am not alone.

Some (Austen-loving) people that I have spoken argued that I have lost my sense of romance and that I am too much absorbed by the ‘modern’ life of fast love. And maybe I have, if we talk in Austen terms. However, is this world that Austen portrays a real measure of romance then?

I am definitely not a pessimistic person, but I think Emma’s world is just too empty and shallow. I do not believe in the I-just-met-you-and-think-you-are-nice-and-goodlooking-so-let’s-marry kind of story line. Also, there is so much more to life than just marrying, so much more good and bad aspects; so much more layers.

Now, I need to add that there are some people who say Austen wrote her novel(s) in an ironic critical way, actually criticizing how her characters live and act. This interpretation does appeal to me at some level and I find it quite interesting. However, not the appealing and interesting kind that would make me want to read 400 pages about it.

Will I ever attempt to read a Jane Austen novel again? Quite honestly I am afraid I will not like any of her other books. But, with the perseverance and optimism that I have, I am going to read at least one of her other novels in the future as well. For now one thing is sure, though; I have had enough Jane Austen for 2012.

Or can anybody convince me otherwise?

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10 thoughts on “Jane Austen’s Emma (1815)

  1. Awesome post. I’m yet to read anything by her but I don’t think I’ll like it at all, which is why it’s taken me – a literature student! – so long.

  2. I agree completely!
    Currently, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice. I started February 5th – thank you, Goodreads – and still haven’t finished it. This is a first for me, and all the reasons why can be found in your blog.

  3. When I first read Pride and Prejudice at a very young age, I found it difficult to get through, too; however, I did not understand her properly.  Jane Austen was a critic of her society and had an amazing eye for people-watching; for instance, yes, Miss Bates is meant to be slightly ridiculous and we are meant to see how naïve and selfish Emma is, but how Mr Knightley encourages her to become a better person.  On the other hand, if you’ve read the book, seen the 2009 TV mini-series and still don’t like it, then I don’t see how you can be immediately persuaded to fall in love with the romance.  It’s not for everyone so perhaps you ought to stick to different genres and wait for Austen to grow on you.  Also, once you understand her language, it is much easier to see the subtextual (often humorous) messages to which Austen infers to.  🙂

    • As I mention in my blog as well, I can see that Austen might be very critial of her society. However, the society that she is writing about, criticial or not, just do not interest me that much. Also, I have seen a BBC adaptation and, even though I thought that was okay while it lasted, I definitely dit not fall in love with Austen. I guess tastes differ, and often I find that people either “hate or love” her works.

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