Of all Jane Austen's heroines, Emma Woodhouse is the most flawed, the most infuriating, and, in the end, the most endearing. Pride and Prejudice's Lizzie Bennet has more wit and sparkle; Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey more imagination; and Sense and Sensibility's Elinor Dashwood certainly more sense--but Emma is lovable precisely because she is so imperfect. Austen only completed six novels in her lifetime, of which five feature young women whose chances for making a good marriage depend greatly on financial issues, and whose prospects if they fail are rather grim. Emma is the exception: "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." One may be tempted to wonder what Austen could possibly find to say about so fortunate a character. The answer is, quite a lot.
For Emma, raised to think well of herself, has such a high opinion of her own worth that it blinds her to the opinions of others. The story revolves around a comedy of errors: Emma befriends Harriet Smith, a young woman of unknown parentage, and attempts to remake her in her own image. Ignoring the gaping difference in their respective fortunes and stations in life, Emma convinces herself and her friend that Harriet should look as high as Emma herself might for a husband--and she zeroes in on an ambitious vicar as the perfect match. At the same time, she reads too much into a flirtation with Frank Churchill, the newly arrived son of family friends, and thoughtlessly starts a rumor about poor but beautiful Jane Fairfax, the beloved niece of two genteelly impoverished elderly ladies in the village. As Emma's fantastically misguided schemes threaten to surge out of control, the voice of reason is provided by Mr. Knightly, the Woodhouse's longtime friend and neighbor. Though Austen herself described Emma as "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like," she endowed her creation with enough charm to see her through her most egregious behavior, and the saving grace of being able to learn from her mistakes. By the end of the novel Harriet, Frank, and Jane are all properly accounted for, Emma is wiser (though certainly not sadder), and the reader has had the satisfaction of enjoying Jane Austen at the height of her powers. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
I absolutely loved this book. It was positively AMAZING. No surprise there. I really enjoyed the plot, majority of the characters and the pace. Of course it wasn't perfect. I found the ending to be rushed. There was the climax and it seemed as though Austen said "Oh, I have to finish this up quick!" and just hurried through everything. I also really hated the main character, Emma. I have never ever hated a character before, let alone a main character, but I just absolutely HATED her. She was basically everything that I dislike in a person all scrunched up into one being. I really didn't think she deserved to marry whom she did, but oh well. She did change by the end of the book, but I still hated her. I relished it when she was humiliated. However, Austen obviously did something good if I felt so strongly about this character. I also thought Harriet to be a bit of a push over, and not a very strong secondary character at all, but she added to Emma's humiliation and I thought, over all, all the characters were used very well throughout the story. This is definitely my second favourite Austen book, next to Pride and Prejudice.
I leave you with an extremely ironic quote which anyone who has read Emma will understand.
Quote of the day: "Amusing herself in the consideration of the blunders which often arise from a partial knowledge of circumstances, of the mistakes which people of high pretensions to judgement are for ever falling into . . ." - Jane Austen, Emma