Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.
Emma, first published in December 1816, was the fifth novel of the famous author, Jane Austen. This book was published on Austen’s 40th birthday and was one of her last books to ever be published
Emma Woodhouse lives with her doting father and is mistress of the house at quite a young age as her mother passed away long ago and her elder sister Isabella is happily married and lives in London. The story begins with Emma’s governess, and one of her most intimate friends for a long time, Ms. Taylor getting married to Mr. Weston and leaving her. Mr. Woodhouse is an old man with settled habits who doesn’t like things to change. Emma, having everything a girl of her age could wish for i.e., beauty, money and intelligence, is left on her own to find some occupation and amusement for herself.
Emma finds a perfect project with Harriet Smith who is an orphan with little in the way of connections. Emma scouts a potential husband for Harriet, the eligible Mr Elton who is the vicar of Highbury and Harriet’s superior in family, connection, and finance. Of course the plan backfires and Mr Elton falls in love with Emma instead and which is much to Emma’s disliking. Emma’s close friend Mr Knightley warns Emma that she has no business interfering in her friends love lives but she thinks he is foolish and continues trying to find other suitable matches for Harriet. Harriet is actually really in love with a local farmer, Mr Martin who Emma feels is white trash more or less and not worthy of Harriet’s feelings. Eventually, after Mr Elton embarrassed himself by professing his love to Emma he leaves town and returns with a wife, a very vulgar, rude, and stuck up wife no less.
The story continues with Emma ‘falling in love’ with the self centred (but popular and equally as rich) Mr Churchill but she quickly realises she does not really love him, Emma really loves Mr Knightley. Just as Emma starts realising that she loves Mr Knightley, Harriet professes her love for Mr Knightley. Eventually Mr Knightley makes his feelings known, which are for Emma. Harriet goes on to marry Mr Martin, Mr Churchill marries local wall flower Miss Fairfax, and Mr Elton marries the ridiculous Miss Hawkins, and Emma and Mr Knightley marry living happily ever after in Her house rather than his house.
While Emma herself is not my favourite Austen heroine, her evolution from charming but self-deluded to charming but chastened and thoughtful has always made for an entertaining and satisfying comic journey. Reading her story in this annotated version that spotlights the meanings and materials of her—and Austen’s—world makes this great novel even more appealing.