Before her novel Emma was published, Jane Austen said about the title character, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever and rich,” but also has tendencies toward being selfish, spoiled, snobby and meddlesome. The real trouble begins when Emma decides she is going to try her hand at matchmaking, taking the very naive Harriet Smith on as a project of sorts in order to bring Harriet into higher society and find her a husband.
While Emma schemes and goes about her daily life in the small village of Highbury, it is the interesting cast that brings life to the novel, and this work of Austen’s seems to have one of the largest assortments of quirky characters:
- Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, who is very fragile in health and always seems to think the health of others is every bit as fragile as his own and that they should follow his habits.
- Harriet Smith, who is impressionable and flighty and will do anything for Emma’s approval.
- Mr. Elton, who is a master at schmoozing and turns out to be a social climber.
- Mrs. Elton (formerly Miss Hawkins), whom Mr. Elton marries to achieve higher social standing. Although she has money, she has horrible manners.
- Miss Bates, who is an incessant talker.
- Frank Churchill, who is an “auntie’s boy.”
And then there’s Emma herself. She’s very concerned about people’s rank in society, she schemes to get her way, and she has decided that she doesn’t like Jane Fairfax for what seems like no good reason. Although she has her faults, in some ways, she is like Scarlett O’Hara, where you can’t help but root for her throughout the book.
So, as you’re reading though Emma, who do you think is the quirkiest character so far? What do you think of Emma? Do you like her, or do you think Jane Austen was right?
Hope you can join us for our discussion of Jane Austen’s Emma on March 8 at 7 p.m. We’ll keep you posted on the location. Happy reading!