But some things don’t change with the passing of the year. I contend human nature is one of them. Our natures – highly resilient — transcend time and allow us to relate to people and characters 100, 200, 300 plus years ago. And that is why, 200 years after Austen created her, I believe we still see ourselves in Emma – and we still adore her. And as Austen states…
“Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure to be spoken kindly of.”
We love a good story of someone young working to figure it all out.
And as Emma does, we recognize that we each have her capacity for self-delusion, arrogance, selfishness and manipulation.
The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself: these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.
We also have her capacity for understanding, empathy, sacrifice and selfless love – even if it takes a little loving correction to get there. “Badly done, Emma!”
She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, so mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of his representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!
Another aspect of our natures is to understand one another above and beyond the words spoken. Words and conventions can lead to misunderstandings – and this novel is certainly full of them – but cut all that away and two hearts seeking each other, putting the other first, will reach understanding. Austen understood that too.
Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.
So I thank Austen for this beautiful story and offer one last Happy Birthday to “This sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults.” We still love you, Emma!