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Emma by Jane Austen

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.

Jane Austen’s fifth novel is a comedy of manners that satirises middle-class English lifestyle of the early 1800s. It tells the story of Emma Woodhouse, a beautiful, confident young woman, who has decided she never wants to get married. Unlike most women at the time, Emma doesn’t need to be dependent on a husband because she has a lot of money of her own. But despite her personal opposition to marriage, she loves trying to matchmake for her friends.
Unfortunately, her advice on relationships often leads to misunderstandings and hurts the people she loves the most.
Emma Woodhouse is one of Jane Austen’s best-known characters. She has many positive qualities. She’s witty and sociable. But Emma has many flaws, too. She’s a snob about class and she doesn’t stop to think how her words might hurt people. Perhaps it is Emma’s good fortune that makes her unable to empathise with people who are less fortunate.
The novel’s humour comes from Austen’s detailed observation of everyday life and some very amusing characters.
Over two hundred years after it was written, Emma is still a great read. It’s been adapted for cinema and TV many times, including the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, and the latest film version (2020) starring Anya Taylor-Joy.