Deconstructing Miss Emma Woodhouse

Image from Emma (2009): Emma Woodhouse © BBC 2009 for MASTERPIECE

The second episode of the new adaptation Emma (2009) aired last night on Masterpiece Classic. You can read my review of Emma and watch previous episodes until March 9th, 2010 at the Masterpiece website. As we move further into the story of Highbury’s misapplying matchmaker, I thought it would be interesting to delve into her character in the novel a bit deeper and explore the different Emma’s portrayed in the film and television adaptations.

Since it’s publication in 1815, Jane Austen’s Emma has had its share of advocates and adversaries. What impressed early readers was not that it lacked energy and style, but that its story was dull and uneventful. Even Austen’s famous publisher John Murray thought it lacked ‘incident and romance’ and Maria Edgeworth, a contemporary author so greatly admired by Austen that she sent her one of the twelve presentation copies allotted by her publisher, could not read past the first volume and thought “there was no story in it.” Ironically, what these two prominent and well-read individuals attributed as a weakness, is actually Emma’s greatest strength.

If one looks beyond the surface, Emma is an intricate story focused on the astute characterization and social reproof which Austen is famous for. Its heroine, the privileged, self-conceited and spoiled Emma Woodhouse may not be as appealing as Austen’s sparkling and clever heroine Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, but her character offers the reader a harder wrought and more rewarding dénouement. Like Miss Woodhouse who believes that she knows better than anyone else what is best for them, we must trust Jane Austen’s instincts for what she believes is the best subject and narrative style. Since many scholars, critics, and readers attribute Emma as a masterpiece of world literature, I think Jane Austen has the final laugh on her early critics. Emma may be about nothing and lack romance, but what a pleasure it is to be so resplendently deficient. Continue reading

Emma Woodhouse; I Have a Piece of News for You!

Image of Kate Beckinsale as Emma Woodhouse, Emma, (1996)NEWS

“Emma,” said Mr. Knightley presently, “I have a piece of news for you. You like news — and I heard an article in my way hither that I think will interest you.”

“News! Oh! yes, I always like news. What is it? Why do you smile so? Where did you hear it? Mr. Knightly & Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 21

Jane Austen’s character Emma Woodhouse loves a bit of news, so I am sure that she will be amused to know that others are talking about her around the Blog-o-spere.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I am confident in saying that Miss Emma Woodhouse would find Austen-esque author Laurie Viera Rigler’s honest admission that she has, on occasion, offered unsolicited advice quite gratifying! In her recent musing on her Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict Blog, she professes to have been a bit Emma like, missapplyments and all. Her cure was in understanding Austen.

I have this theory that if you read her works enough times and really contemplate the life lessons therein, you can pretty much give up your psychotherapist.

(Hmm? Reminder to myself to cancel next appointment with therapist) You can read her entire humorous and entertaining commentary in the online article, Emma; or How Jane Austen Revealed My Inner Know-it-All, on her delightful blog.

Image of Mark Strong and Samantha Morton in Emma, (1996)

I dare say, that there are few people who know more about Austen’s novel Emma than web mistress and designer Kali Pappas. You can read her guest blogger contribution on the costuming in the upcoming Emma (1996) adaptation on my co-blog, Jane Austen Today entitled, Fashionable Emma Woodhouse: Costuming in Austen’s Emma Adapted. Visit Kali’s blog Emma Adaptations to discover even more about Miss Woodhouse and her Highbury friends.

Read the complete synopsis of the movie at Masterpiece Classic’s Emma webpage.

Image of Box Hill Picnic, Emma, (1996)

Learn all about Emma’s Box Hill picnic at Jane Austen’s World.

Jane Austen Quote of the Day, is featuring some of the best quotes from Emma.

The novel Emma is renown for it’s unique characterizations, so in anticipation of the airing of the 1996 movie of Emma on Sunday, March 23rd at 9:00 pm on PBS, I have focused this week entirely on some of my favorites; Cast Preview, Emma Woodhouse, Harriet Smith, and Mr. Elton. Discover what makes Austen’s characters so appealing, or unappealing as mayhap! I hope that you all enjoy the movie!

Image of group shot of the cast of Emma, (1996)