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Thursday, November 7, 2013
Emma can be experienced on many levels, intellectually and emotionally. It requires careful attention and the ending worth the wait. I loved immersing myself in such sentences as the following:
The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much of her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments.
What is it about Jane Austin that interests YA readers now? One guess might be that in a time when little clarity exists as to what any particular young woman should do with her life, (Career? Family? Is it possible to have both?) it is interesting, and a relief perhaps, to experience through a book a society where a woman's right and good place is laid out. Emma felt like an escape to another world, not unlike fantasy.
Emma, written in 1816, describes in sometimes excruciating detail the pointlessness in the world of the English upperclass. It is at times funny and also charmingly romantic. Any woman nurturing a fantasy that an older, wiser, kind, strong, handsome and rich man will take charge will find the ideal in Mr. Knightley.
Jane Austin was born in 1775 just before French Revolution. According to the forward of the Barnes and Noble Classics addition I found on my shelf, written by Paul Montazzoli: "Especially in her masterpiece, Emma, Jane Austin reacted to these apocalyptic shocks with a sophisticated by deeply committed political conservatism."
Likewise, perhaps the upheavals of the twentieth century, including the changes (and opportunities) wrought by the women's movement of the sixties, make reading Jane Austin and her characters, an extended and provocative armchair vacation.