Reading the Classics: Emma

Hello and Happy May!

My first segment for “Reading the Classics” was so long ago, that I forgot it was even an idea I had! The original idea was that I would read classics I had not read before, and as usual, provide commentary. Perhaps this is blasphemy as an English major and a Language Arts teacher…but to be honest, there are many classics that are famous and praised and on all of the reading lists…that I just don’t have any interest in. There are so many books in the world that I would rather spend time reading books I actually want to read, instead of books I “should” read. Okay, rant over. 🙂

To the point. Last month I read Jane Austen’s Emma because I wanted to give it a reread before seeing the new version of the movie. (Which I still need to see, but that’s beside the point.) I started reading Emma for the first time in late highschool/early college. I say “started” because it took me a long time to finish it. I would put it aside for a while, pick it back up, read a little, and run through the cycle again. And again. And again. I did not devour it like I did other of Austen’s novels. When I picked it up to reread it last month, I quickly realized the reason it took me so long to read the first time.

I don’t like it.

🙂 I say that with a smile, but truly, if I had to rank all of the Austen novels, it would be at the bottom. I should clarify–it is not a terrible book. It is written well and Austen, as usual, delivers on the social commentary aspect. It’s Emma. Emma ANNOYS me. I did a combined physical book/audiobook reading with the hopes that I could get through the story faster with the audiobook–which proved true.

Back to Emma. I can’t count how many times I stopped reading and just sighed or groaned over how irritated I was with Emma. Emma is not a terrible human being by any means, but she is annoying, a snob, and meddles way too much in the lives of others. Additionally, she has a extremely high opinion of herself which, while giving her charming confidence, also means that she slights those who make her see her faults or inabilities (ahem, Jane Fairfax), and that she believes her judgement is always correct.

I can go on and on about the irritating aspects of Emma and her character. What I will also say is that she is loyal, caring, and wishes for the happiness of others. I can happily admit that she does attain some growth by the end, she matures a bit, and is brought down a peg in her attitude…but not as much as you might think. While Emma does recognize how she was in the wrong in certain instances, she still manages to get her own way in the end, and everything pretty much goes back to the way it was. We can hope that Emma continues to grow and mature and lose some of that spoiled quality, but we will never know. Here is where Austen shows her cleverness and her commentary on the higher-class–those who are “someones.” Despite all of her meddling and her slightly snobbish and sometimes outright rude behavior, she is rich and beautiful, and things still of course, work out in her favor. The same goes for Mr. Frank Churchill, the stepson of Emma’s dearest friend Mrs. Weston. Frank’s behavior is even more abominable than Emma’s by far and yet, everyone is upset with him for a brief moment before it all turns into sunshine and rainbows again. Frank, of course, is charming and rich and related to Emma’s friends.

That was a long rant, I know. Is Emma my favorite Jane Austen novel? Absolutely not? Is it unreadable? Absolutely not. Will I read it again? Honestly, probably, if only in the hopes that more read-throughs will improve my opinion, and provide me with more insight.

I do think, however, that we can all agree that Mrs. Elton is the WORST. Seriously. I know she’s supposed to be Emma’s foil, but WOW. She’s terrible. That is all.

What do you think? If Emma is a favorite of yours, please leave me comment and let me know why! 🙂 I always want to hear reasons why people love the books they do…especially when it’s one that I don’t love. 🙂

Wishing you all well, and keep reading!


    1. Megan

      What I’ve noticed with Jane Austen is that people either really like her works or really don’t! I haven’t read a ton either. There are a lot I don’t have much interest in.


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