I feel like this is one of Jane Austen’s lesser-known novels, but I have to say that Emma is my favorite from her so far (still three novels to go). The story centers around a wealthy girl, Emma Woodhouse, who adores playing match-maker even though she has no interest in love for herself. Emma tries to set up her friend, Harriet, with a very rich and wealthy man, although absolutely nothing goes according to plan.
Emma is a very interesting character because you’re not supposed to like her. She’s incredibly flawed: she’s arrogant, self-centered, materialistic, and short-sighted. Usually seeing all of these traits in a character would be annoying to read, but the way Austen writes her is compelling as opposed to frustrating. At her core, however, Emma is incredibly caring, especially when it comes to her friends and her father.
“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.” (pg. 425)
The contrast between her and her good friend Mr. Knightly serves as great juxtaposition, because they are so different, yet complement each other very well. Knightly is very mature and selfless while Emma is excitable and confident.
There have been countless adaptations of this story, the most popular of which is the 1995 film Clueless, where Cher is the equivalent of Emma. This movie is a lot of fun and adds in some twists and turns to make the movie its own as opposed to a cut-and-paste copy of the book. And with a cast including Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison, and Paul Rudd, you can’t go wrong.
Another incredible and creative adaptation is web-series “Emma Approved” in which Emma runs a successful matchmaking and lifestyle advice business. Some people may be familiar with the more successful “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” (an adaptation based on Pride & Prejudice). “Emma Approved” has 72 episodes that fully divulge into the story of Emma in a modern way, while also creating more depth with other characters and giving the audience more perspective on the characters.
This book is fun and compelling and an overall great read. Like I said, it’s my favorite Jane Austen novel that I’ve yet to read. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves 1800s novels and enjoys reading classic novels. A word of caution, though: if you get frustrated with 19th century dialect, this may not be the book for you because that’s all that it is. It’s also important to note that Jane Austen novels are not a rollercoaster of events that we’re typically used to today; they focus more on everyday events and their implications as opposed to tumultuous events. But if those two things don’t bother you, it’s definitely worth the read.