Savoring the comedy of manners in Jane Austen’s Emma

emma-and-george

Emma is my first experience reading Jane Austen’s books. In one word I’d like to sum it up: I love the novel. It is very entertaining, comical, light, fun. Compared to works by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot and Charles Dickens, reading Emma is such a joy. The kind of happily live ever after story that amuses me so much.

Reading the title is like watching a romantic comedy movie that though for movie-freaks this is ‘shallow’ film, still.. you need watching this kind of movie to loosen your nerves. And Austen has so many things to offer other than just the happy finale.

First and foremost, I’d like to say what I slightly dislike about the writing. As a huge fan of Hardy’s exquisite, sophisticated writing style, Austen’s does not quench me. It is too straight-forwarded, linear, simple. I don’t find many beautiful depictions about scenery, places, wise words and the like. That’s the minus part of the book.

The plus ones? Well.. a lot!

I really love the comedy of the manners in the book. A few instances that made me laugh are the scenes when Frank Churchill going all the way to London just to cut his hair! The most ridiculous one is when Emma rumbles about how Mrs. Elton trying to ‘fix’ Jane Fairfax. I remember I was at the train reading the part Emma wonders what if Mrs. Elton trying to Woodhouse-ing her! I was laughing for a moment. I didn’t care if other passengers were thinking I was nut or something.

The way Austen presents misconduct of the characters, most of whom are wealthy, is outstanding and witty. It seems like for some characters, such as Mrs. Elton, money can buy you house and carriages but it can’t guarantee you good behavior. Austen mocks, I think, each and every character in the book, even for Emma.

I like Emma, honestly. With all of her selfishness, all-knowing, prophecy, misjudgement, I think Emma is a very dear friend. She learns her mistake by comparing Harriet and Jane. I am happy reading on the part that it is Harriet who should be her best pal, not Jane. This, I can relate to myself on days when I tend to put more love to the one who ‘leaves’ me but disregard the friend who is always by my side. You can learn very precious lessons about friendship by looking at the relationship between Emma, Harriet and Jane.

How does Austen ridicule the heroine, then?

Austen makes fun of Emma’s presumption regarding the love life of Harriet. And if you read it carefully, all the lifelines seems going against her conjecture. The fact that Mr. Elton does like her in spite of her suspicion that he has a crush on Harriet is the first of all. Her judgement proves fruitless, too, when it comes to the traits of Frank.

Emma is made to laugh at her own falsehood. But thankfully, she accepts her flaws, mend them before it is too late. That’s how Austen creates one of the most lovable heroine who grows up and learns a lot from her own mistakes. So humanly and that what makes me so fond of her.

The bond between Mr. George Knightley and Emma is beautiful in unthinkable ways. What I like so much about this couple is how Austen opts to unite Emma and Mr. George Knightley, two people with big hearts. I prefer Frank, at first. He is handsome, talkative, sociable person. But as I learn how he is so messy about trivial things, such as getting furious after going out under the hot ray of the sun, I agree with Austen when she makes Emma’s romantic flame dies.

Don’t get trapped with people’ physical traits, that’s the conclusion.

While Mr. George Knightley is very gentleman. Although he speaks satirical, his judgement is correct like when he suspects something’s special is going on between Frank and Jane. Despite his firmness, Mr. George Knightley is an observant. If he is suspicious about something, he doesn’t act. He just knows, unlike Emma who chooses to believe her own suspicions. It is such a pity when he confesses that he is envious with Frank who still wins the acceptance of the people despite the fact of his secret engagement with Jane.

I call Emma as a girl with a big heart due to her relationship with Jane. She keeps on liking Jane, forgiving her in spite of the latter’s ignorance. Also, she forgives Frank although he mistreats her. When Mr. George Knightley and Emma does end up together, I think this is the best kind of love of all in the novel. Austen is very fair on this and the way their story unfolds is very beautiful.

Picture is from here. Thanks for that.

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