Emma is a literary classic by Jane Austen following the genteel women of Georgian-Regency England in their most cherished sport: matchmaking. Emma is spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied. After a couple she has introduced gets married, she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities and, blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives, proceeds to forge ahead in her new interest despite objections. What follows is a comedy of manners, in which Emma repeatedly counsels her friends for or against their marriage prospects, absent any notice of their true emotions or desires. This story is often cited as a personal favorite of critics and literary historians, and Emma is set apart from other Austen heroines by her seeming immunity to romantic attraction.
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- Stephanie L. Cameron
A truly great novel, wonderfully performed
Yes, it is one of the great English novels, a work of profound and perceptive moral seriousness about a round of visits and social engagements of upper-class families. Austen's genius, wit, and irony make the two aspects - the moral seriousness and the social round - work together to produce one of the great works of English literature.
The way it portrays Emma's getting everything wrong so powerfully that the listener wants to yell at her to show more sense. One can't help but feel Austen's own self-criticism - observant and critical of those around her, yet misperceiving or deluding herself almost to the very end.
Emma is wonderfully performed. But the other characters, including the male ones, are convincingly done too.
The classic moment when Mr. Knightley reproves Emma for her thoughtless, supercilious unkindness to Miss Bates - and Emma's mortification as she takes the full measure of the criticism and its justness - was movingly conveyed in the reading.
One reviewer thought the reader condescending. I thought the reading perfectly conveyed Emma's own unjustified sense of the superiority or her own insights into the affairs of others, her misplaced sense of the need to direct the affairs of others she deemed incapable of managing their own affairs. She came to see how wrong she had been about everything, the harm she did to those she thought she was helping, and how she continued to be deluded almost to the very end. An extraordinary creative exercise in self-criticism.
- Paul Adams