Emma is a comic novel by Jane Austen, about the perils of misconstrued romance. The main character, Emma Woodhouse, is described in the opening paragraph as “handsome, clever, and rich” but is also rather spoiled. Prior to starting the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.”
A cautionary tale about the evils of interference, matchmaking and good intentions turned awry, Emma is the study of a young woman raised without sufficient discipline or occupation. Handsome, clever and rich, Emma is the epitome of what a young woman should be in Regency England, except for the fact that her indulgent father and lack of a mother have left her spoiled and used to getting her own way. Emma’s only true critic and voice of reason is Mr. Knightley, a gentleman whose opinion she values greatly. She delights in meddling in the romantic affairs of everyone around her, thinking celibacy is a privilege she alone can enjoy by virtue of her social standing. In the end, Emma is forced to acknowledge both her own lack of insight into the motives of others, and admit her need for a companion who can challenge her to become a better woman.
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