handsome, clever, and rich,

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: Emma (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Vol: Volume I | Ch: Chapter I

The novel's first two words are the heroine's name: Emma would have it no other way. Emma is the fourth of Austen's six completed novels to be published, the fifth to be written, and the only one to take its title from the heroine. With a comfortable home, independence, social preeminence, and a happy disposition, Emma is quite satisfied with life and with herself.

Still, Austen's "seemed to unite" cautions us, and the sentence and paragraph's conclusion, "with very little to distress or vex her," prompts us to wonder if something is about to inconvenience such a privileged life, even ought to inconvenience it. Austen endows her heroine with her own dry wit. They share a cool, swift intelligence. What they don't share is wealth. Emma is alone among the Austen heroines in being independently rich (we learn that she has £30,000; converted to today's dollars that is roughly $2,700,000). Emma's "happy disposition" counterbalances her self-centeredness and snobbery. The country life of the gentry can be claustrophobic in its confinement to a very few places and people. Congeniality is highly prized.











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