Emma (novel)

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Emma is a book by Jane Austen. It was first published in the year 1815. Jane Austen teased readers with the idea of a "heroine whom no one but myself will much like" when she began writing Emma. It is a comedy about Emma Woodhouse, a rich young lady growing up in the fictional community of Hartfield, in 19th century England. The book is about the troubles Emma causes when she tries matchmaking.

Plot[change | edit source]

Emma Woodhouse is a rich and beautiful young woman. The book starts by introducing her, and with her governess, Miss Taylor's wedding with Mr. Weston, a cheerful neighbor. Emma quickly becomes friends with Harriet Smith, a "natural daughter".

Characters[change | edit source]

  • Emma Woodhouse - the second daughter of Mr. Woodhouse. Jane Austen introduces Emma as "handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition," and has had "...very little to distress or vex her." She is elegant, friendly, and cares about her friends. However, Emma can also be proud and vain, like when she stops Harriet from marrying Robert Martin. Sometimes her kind feelings and her pride struggle with each other: "Emma could not but picture it all, and feel how justly they must resent (be angry), how naturally Harriet must suffer...She would have given a great deal, or endured a great deal, to have had the Martins in a higher rank of life. They were so deserving, a little higher should have been enough; but as it was, how could she have done otherwise? Impossible! She could not repent (be sorry). They must be separated..." Emma is also an "imaginist," "on fire with speculation (guesses) and foresight." She tries to match the people around her, but thinks she will never marry. Mr. Knightley warns her to try not to do so: "You are more likely to have done harm (bad) to yourself, than good to them, by interference." He also says to Mrs. Weston, "Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family. At ten years she had the misfortune of being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister at seventeen...ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of the house and of you all." Later, however, she sees her mistakes and has a happy marriage with Mr. Knightley.
  • Mr. George Knightley - the brother of Mr. John Knightley, Emma's brother-in-law, and an old family friend. He is "a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty," with "a cheerful manner." He is "one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them." He is jealous of Frank Churchill when he comes and flirts with Emma. He is not as proud as Emma, and knows that Harriet would be very happy if she married Robert Martin. He is kind and generous, and respectful to people like Miss Bates.
  • Frank Churchill - the son of Mr. Weston by his first wife. He is "...a very good-looking young man - height, air, address, all were unexceptionable, and his countenance (face) had a great deal of the spirit and liveliness of his father's - he looked quick and sensible." Somehow Mr. Knightley seems "...determined to think ill of him," and says he is a "...trifling, silly young fellow." Everybody seems to expect Frank Churchill and Emma to fall in love with each other. At first, Emma likes him very much, and thinks she loves him, but soon she realizes her love has settled into cheerful friendship, and she decides to match him with Harriet. She does not know he is already engaged to Jane Fairfax, and is very, very surprised when she finds out.
  • Jane Fairfax - a quiet young lady of Emma’s age. Emma is secretly jealous of her because she can do lots of things better than Emma, like playing the piano. She is very beautiful, and “very elegant, remarkably elegant…elegance was the reigning character.” She is also delicate, kind, clever, and polite. However, she does not have the cheerful openness or warmth of Emma. She is secretly engaged to Frank Churchill, and is very unhappy when he keeps on flirting with Emma.
  • Harriet - a seventeen-year-old illegitimate daughter of a tradesman. She is "a very pretty girl...short, plump, and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness...". Harriet is not very clever. However, she is grateful, nice, and humble. She loves Robert Martin, but because of Emma's opinion, she refuses his offer of marriage, and she falls in love with Mr. Elton instead. But Emma is very surprised when she finds out Mr. Elton loves her! Harriet is very sad, but Emma soon wants her to marry Frank Churchill instead. She is shocked when she realizes Harriet does not love Frank Churchill, but Mr. Knightley. In the end, Harriet marries the person she really liked, Robert Martin, and has a happy life.
  • Mr. Woodhouse - Emma's old father. He loves his daughters, but with "gentle selfishness." He does not want his daughters to be married because he does not want them to leave him. Mr. Woodhouse is very cautious about illness and disease. He is sweet tempered, and likes to eat gruel.

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