My ventures into studying the novel have brought me back to Jane Austen. Emma is more complex, but the characters, while bearing the hallmarks of very minor cliche, are rich with life and detail, and in spite of me using the “cliche” classification, some of the characters are very well rounded and original. What is most immediately worth noting is that the protagonist is a woman born into money, a figure unlike the ones I’ve read in the other two Austen books I’ve read. So I’m viewing the 18th Century world from a different perspective and a different attitude.
The story follows the events and circumstances of the eponymous Emma, the daughter of a wealthy man who’s wife has died. Emma’s sister is married off, and Emma has the mansion all to herself to share with her hypochondriac father. As usual, Austen keeps her occupied with thoughts of relationships, and in Emma’s case, the time-occupying factor is the art, or hobby, of match-making.
I see a bit of a Shakesperean set-up here, and the book is filled with comic relief. I would have to say that Austen’s characterization of a certain Jain Fairfax, Emma’s seeming nemesis throughout the reading, is among the more compelling of characters, but this is probably because I can identify with her in some ways. Austen applies pointed descriptions of her at more than one point in the novel, which makes for an understanding that continues to unfold. She’s a woman loved and adored, endowed with beauty and graceful talent, withholds a particular elegance that contrasts a sort of pale and deep-eyed pall about her that carries a near sense of the tragic, but she lives on the ongoing verge of destitution, where the images of the barren coast of Ireland compliment these descriptions to bring about about a figure to be almost awed upon.
What is unique about Austen is her classic use of misunderstanding that works to propel and scatter the plot, only to have all the loose connections and misunderstandings cleared up in the end, devices that serve as a basis to show that one way or another, matters will be fine in the end. Also worth noting, reading from my end, is the nature of big problems versus little problems. Big problems are life impacting situations, and their resolutions affect lengthy, life-long time spans. This is obviously old news to the world, but this does not lessen their significance. The fragility of a decision can turn the mind of a human being into either a happy or sad state of affairs.
Emma herself has much to learn, and learn she does. She possesses the ability to judge with reason, but her apprehensiveness toward social status misguides her. She wants everyone to be happy, but the nature of how others contrast to her position of perfection seems to irritate her, and in some ways, she is intolerant. The ability to reason helps her in these areas, and through the course of her situation, she becomes self-aware.
However, I still have yet to read Volume III, so I have more to learn about our dear Emma.