On not liking Emma


I have a confession to make. I love Jane Austen but I don’t like Emma Woodhouse. Emma is universally agreed to be Jane’s masterpiece & I love the plot, the other characters, the village setting, but Emma irritates me. She’s spoilt & self-satisfied & interfering & I just want to shake some sense into her. My favourite Austen is Persuasion, closely followed by Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. But, the beauty of Jane is that there’s always something new to discover in the books. I’ve reread all the novels over the past year & I was surprised to find that Fanny Price wasn’t the insipid, self-effacing girl I’d always thought her. This time, I discovered the jealousy in her thoughts about Mary Crawford & Edmund and admired her determination to resist Henry Crawford against the persuasions of everyone else. So, I’m about to start yet another reread of Emma in the hope that I’ve matured enough to appreciate her. I have the latest BBC version of Emma on the way from Amazon & I’d like to read the book again before I watch it anyway as I like to have the book clear in my mind before watching the TV version. I’ll let you know how I get on.

6 thoughts on “On not liking Emma

  1. Jane Austen did say that she was writing a novel in which nobody would like the heroine–“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Emma does think too highly of herself. Unlike most of the other Austen heroines, Emma already seems to have arrived: “Handsome, clever, and rich”. So what will happen to make her come to terms with the fact that she's not the most spectacular star in the sky?

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  2. I do hope you get to like Emma or at least appreciate her. Of course she needs a good shake and indeed that is what she gets,in the end — though she doesn't really learn from her first big mistake over Harriet and the vicar, when she makes that awful gaffe at the Box Hill picnic and by doing so alienates Mr Knightly, she really does look hard at herself and starts on the path to reform. That's how I see it, anyway.
    Nice blog by the way!

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  3. I've yet to read Emma (am rereading P&P however), though I hope to read it and Mansfield Park this year (the last two unread JA books). At the moment I'm reading Angel by Elizabeth Taylor–another character who doesn't come off well at all–I'm not liking her much but I love ET's writing and am curious to see where she's going with Angel.

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  4. I never liked Emma because I hated it that Mr. Knightley is such a father figure. It wasn't until the movie with Jeremy Northam that I appreciated Mr. Knightley's possibilities 🙂 But I agree, Persuasion is my favorite.

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