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Austen Novel Read Along is the board for our ongoing discussion of a Jane Austen novel. Beginning with Lady Susan, new portions of the original text are posted every Wednesday. This is a Discussion board with comments welcome and encouraged! No registration is required to join the discussion.

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Emma Chapters 1 & 2
Emma Volume I, Chapters I & II: Quotes, Questions, and Conversation.
July 5, 2016
3:54 PM
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Enjoy the text of Emma at Mollands: http://mollands.net/etexts/emm…..index.html.

 

Quote #1:

Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.

Questions #1:

Dies Emma value Mr. Knightley’s opinion? Which has a greater impact on her ego: Mr. Knightley’s criticisms or Mr. Woodhouse’s belief in her perfection?

 

Quote #2:

Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family, which for the last two or three generations had been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good education, but, on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged, and had satisfied an active, cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the militia of his county, then embodied.

Question #2:

Emma is a very class conscious novel, displaying more social mobility that Austen’s earlier books. What is Mr. Weston’s background and how has it changed?

 

Quote #3:

“I suppose you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill has written to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life.”

Question #3:

This one is aimed at those of you who have read Emma before. Whose voice are we hearing here for the first time? What do you think of this nearly anonymous introduction?

July 6, 2016
11:49 AM
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So I am going to purposefully ignore the above questions…I don’t want to answer too early and not let other’s get their say in. (That is probably the teacher in me “letting it hang” to get more readers to have time to think rather than just giving an answer…you know what I mean?  You sit in class waiting for the “smart kid” to answer so you don’t have to do the work?  Maybe I have spent too many years in junior high 😉 )

Anyway, I had a few thoughts as I was listening/reading so I will share those. I am currently working on a Lydia story so I have been contemplating her quite a bit, and I was struck by how there are similarities between Emma and Lydia. I know not everyone likes to think anything pleasant about Lydia, but hold on and hear me out.  

Both Emma and Lydia think highly of themselves.  Both have parents who dote on them and feed their ego.  Both have nervous parents. They are both high spirited young ladies. Both enjoy making matches and flirtations — one makes them for others while one makes them for herself. I think that brings us to a main difference which is rooted in a similarity.  Why is Lydia looking to make matches for herself and Emma looking to make them for others?  Look to their nervous parents.  Lydia is being pushed out…she has little money, she needs to find a good secure match, to her mother she is wonderful and pretty and can do no wrong.  Emma is being pulled in….she is well situated and secure, she does not need to find a good match and in fact, a match would bring grief to her father, to her father she is wonderful and pretty and can do no wrong. And then I wondered — What would Lydia be like if she were more financially secure? What would she be like if Jane and Lizzy married and there were less sisters at home? What would she be like if she had a sensible woman for a friend and governess like Miss Taylor? What would she be like if she met a Mr. Knightley instead of a Mr. Wickham? What would Emma be like if she had not her fortune or Miss Taylor or Mr. Knightley?  Just some things I am contemplating.  Do I have answers or opinions on those questions? Yes 🙂 but no, not going to share them…at least not yet. I want to do more thinking on them, and there is that “letting it hang” instinct again as well. 🙂 

July 6, 2016
12:13 PM
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I’m also going to “let it hang,” especially as I wrote the questions and picked the quotes (though I am itching to respond to #3). Instead, I’ll clomp on to Leenie’s thoughts. I feel Lydia has a hard time because she’s fifteen. How many fifteen year old girls do you know who aren’t rather silly? What she requires is additional supervision, either in the form of more attentive parents or a competent governess. Emma, on the other hand, is twenty-one and (theoretically) more mature. She is also enough of a snob to secure her from the Wickham’s of the world. But what if Frank Churchill had more sinister intentions? He has Emma fairly wrapped around his finger at one point. She is too focused on her consequence to do anything to diminish it, but he still leads her on a merry chase. Maybe by twenty-one Lydia would know better than Emma proves to? It’s hard to say. I doubt she’s as intelligent as Emma, but maybe that is exactly what would protect Lydia from too great a dependence on her own conclusions. 

I think Emma bears a resemblance to many Austen characters. I argued her similarities to Elizabeth Bennet in the intro, but I also see some Elinor Dashwood in her (I expect she would prove a good manager if ever forced to become one). Her situation also resembles Elizabeth Elliots’, as both become mistress of their father’s home while still young teenagers (about Lydia’s age, in fact) and are accustomed to universal admiration. 

Dare I also suggest there may be some Lady Susan in Emma as well? Both are well-versed in the art of rationalization.