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Emma (World Digital Library Edition)

Cover of Emma (World Digital Library Edition)

Emma (World Digital Library Edition)

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Pretty, bright, and born atop the social strata of the English village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse has all anyone would want. But she is fated to become the victim of her own irrepressible willfulness.

Because of the recent marriage of her friend and governess, Emma fills the void in her life by attempting to “improve” Harriet Smith, a sweet, pretty seventeen-year-old of unknown parentage. Emma’s good-hearted attempts to rearrange the lives of Harriet and other marriageable townspeople are then the incitement to the book’s subtle, intricately constructed plot.

Austen employs a sympathetic, gentle satire as she portrays the provincial townspeople — all of whom are goodhearted, but have their own particular streak of ridiculousness. Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, is deferred to by all, but maintains an absurd aversion to change and an overweening concern for maintaining what he considers to be a well-measured, healthy lifestyle. The chatty Miss Bates is sweet-tempered, but talks incessantly about everything that comes into view. And then there is Emma herself, who seems to know all but her own heart.

With the tightly weaved movements of the characters and the interplay of their romantic schemes, Emma has elements of a well-done mystery novel. But the book’s leisurely exposition and skillful use of irony make it an amusing comedy of manners in which the reader can savor the all-too-familiar foibles of the heart as it becomes a hunter.
Pretty, bright, and born atop the social strata of the English village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse has all anyone would want. But she is fated to become the victim of her own irrepressible willfulness.

Because of the recent marriage of her friend and governess, Emma fills the void in her life by attempting to “improve” Harriet Smith, a sweet, pretty seventeen-year-old of unknown parentage. Emma’s good-hearted attempts to rearrange the lives of Harriet and other marriageable townspeople are then the incitement to the book’s subtle, intricately constructed plot.

Austen employs a sympathetic, gentle satire as she portrays the provincial townspeople — all of whom are goodhearted, but have their own particular streak of ridiculousness. Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, is deferred to by all, but maintains an absurd aversion to change and an overweening concern for maintaining what he considers to be a well-measured, healthy lifestyle. The chatty Miss Bates is sweet-tempered, but talks incessantly about everything that comes into view. And then there is Emma herself, who seems to know all but her own heart.

With the tightly weaved movements of the characters and the interplay of their romantic schemes, Emma has elements of a well-done mystery novel. But the book’s leisurely exposition and skillful use of irony make it an amusing comedy of manners in which the reader can savor the all-too-familiar foibles of the heart as it becomes a hunter.
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    9 - 12

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Excerpts-
  • From Chapter 1 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 was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father, and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses, and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

    Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

    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. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

About the Author-
  • Jane Austen was born at Steventon Parsonage, Hampshire, England, on December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children. She was educated by her father and began her writing career with parodies and sketches meant for the amusement of her family. She published only four novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1816. She died in 1817 at the age of only forty-one. Two more novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published after her death.
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    Barnes & Noble World Digital Library
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Emma (World Digital Library Edition)
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Jane Austen
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