Blunders and Blindness
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In the quiet and picturesque village of Highbury there lived a self-professed matchmaker of little experience and expertise yet she believed herself to be in possession of superior observational skills and the ability to see into everyone’s heart. Emma Woodhouse, our twenty-one year old matchmaker of Highbury, rates the marriage of her governess to a wealthy and respected gentleman, Mr. Weston, as one of her laudable matchmaking successes and decidedly takes on the challenge of finding a suitable wife for the vicar of Highbury, Mr. Elton. Alas, Emma is not the talented matchmaker she thinks she is and makes frequent blunders in judgment and is often blind to the romantic inclinations of the people around her…
What then ensues is a spectacular comedy of manners that is heartwarming, satirical, lively, and charming.
Mr. George Knightley, brother-in-law to Emma, does not approve of Emma’s new matchmaking hobby or her new friendship with Harriet Smith, “the natural daughter of nobody knows whom.” Harriet Smith, a seventeen year old parlour border at the local school, is inferior to Emma in sophistication and sense. Mr. Knightley would much rather see Emma with a companion that is her equal in intelligence and influence her positively. Mr. Knightley is one of the few people in Emma’s life that recognizes her faults; and believing her too often indulged and spoiled he makes no qualms about admonishing her for these faults. Unfortunately, Emma is often willful and ignores Mr. Knightley’s wise counsel.
Jane Austen is quoted to have said Emma was a “heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” This is true for some Austen fans who rank Emma Woodhouse as one of their least favorite heroines. However, there many readers that find her likable and claim her to be one of their favorite Austen characters. Emma Woodhouse is unique in that she is wealthy and well provided for, thus giving her little inducement to marry. In addition, even though she enjoys pairing up her friends and neighbors, Emma has little inclination or interest in finding love for herself and declares that she will never marry. (So much for having a romantic heroine!) Nonetheless, I am very fond of Emma, her lack of experience in the world has made her naive and the indulgence of her family has swelled her head, but she is not an unworthy or unlikable heroine. Throughout the course of this novel Jane Austen beautifully depicts the journey of Emma’s maturation and displays her blossoming into a self-aware, humble, and sensible woman.
My favorite thing about Emma is the charming village of Highbury and all who reside within. There is such a pleasant mix of endearing and exasperating characters: Miss Bates, a poor spinster who dearly loves to share news with her neighbors; Mr. Woodhouse, such a generous and a caring man who suffers from nervous anxieties about the health of his family and friends; Mr. Weston with his jolly and sanguine temperament; and Mrs. Elton, who believes herself to be the first in consequence in the town and is extremely vulgar and conceited. According to Miss Bates “there are few places with such society as Highbury.” How very true!
While Pride and Prejudice is the most famous and popular of Jane Austen’s six major novels, I believe that Emma is truly an excellent, accomplished novel that is not to be overlooked. I may not recommend it to someone for their first experience with Jane Austen, as it is a bit lengthier than the others, but I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy traveling to the time and world of Jane Austen whether it be in book or on screen!