Emma: 1st Discussion

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Hello everyone! I hope you can forgive me for being so slow with this discussion post! It’s been quite a busy month so far. I haven’t had time to read much, write on my blog, or talk with y’all on IG. I’m so very sorry and hope that you can forgive me!

I hope that you are enjoying Emma so far. I’m very ashamed because I have just barely started! I have so many books I need to read for this month and I’m just super stressed out. Have no fear, I will catch up soon! Thank you so much for joining in the fun with me for yet another month. This makes THREE months together now and I can’t wait to see what Jane has in store for us in April!

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Emma, published in 1815, has been described as a “mystery story without a murder”. The eponymous heroine is the charming (but perhaps too clever for her own good) Emma Woodhouse, who manages to deceive herself in a number of ways (including as to who is really the object of her own affections), even though she (and the reader) are often in possession of evidence pointing toward the truth. She overcomes self-delusion during the course of her novel, like many ladies in Austen’s novels. The book describes a year in the life of the village of Highbury and its vicinity, portraying many of the various inhabitants.

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  1. In what ways is Emma trapped in the beginning of the novel?
  2. Why isn’t Mr. Woodhouse a good companion for Emma?
  3. Explain the relationship between Emma and Miss Taylor. How was Miss Taylor a suitable friend and an unsuitable friend for Emma? Why isn’t Harriet Smith a good companion for Emma?
  4. What fantasy does Emma build for Harriet Smith? How? What clues seem to support Emma’s matchmaking efforts?
  5. What were your first thoughts on the novel? Emma herself? Other characters? Volume 1 as a whole?
  6. Why does Harriet say that being an “old maid” would be “dreadful?” How does her view provide insight into the regard given single women of the Regency period? Were they respected? Why or why not? How are older, single females regarded in our society today? Why?
  7. How is Emma Woodhouse characterized in the novel’s opening sentence?
  8. Mr. Knightley says, “Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family” (p. 31). What does he mean? In what ways might Emma’s intelligence be a hindrance?
  9. Which character(s) do you like the most so far? The least? Are there some that you can’t make up your mind about? Why?
  10. Tell us your feelings about the characters.

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You may answer as many questions as you like or just run with your thoughts! Either way, I’m looking forward to reading what you thought of Volume 1!

Good luck!

Comment away!

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15 thoughts on “Emma: 1st Discussion

  1. spines in a line says:

    First of all, no worries at all with this post! It had sounded like things were getting a bit hectic for you so totally reasonable that you had to step back a bit. Glad you’re back though 🙂

    I’m gonna start with Q5 because many #JABBR folks had previously mentioned that this was one of their least faves so I went into it still open-minded but anticipating what they may have disliked about it.

    I feel more at a disadvantage with this book than the others because I’ve had very little exposure to this story at all so I really had no idea what to expect. I did watch some of the YouTube series that had modernized the story but besides the matchmaking aspect of it, I didn’t really retain anything else and never watched it til the end.

    So far I like it though I don’t think the writing is as strong as in Pride & Prejudice, so in a way it’s a letdown coming from that book. I think the reason so many people dislike it is because Emma is pretty unlikeable with her feelings of superiority (though I’m a little ashamed to say I have agreed with her on some points!). I don’t particularly like her, but there are certainly others in this book who I dislike more and so I’m coming to like Emma more as a result of our mutual dislike.


  2. Elizabeth says:

    There’s no problem with it being late as I think we are all pretty busy 😃 I’m a bit late to the party but I’m enjoying Emma and I haven’t read it for quite some time. She is quite different from our other heroines but reminds me sometimes of Marianne and Lydia combined into one. And I’m looking forward to finishing volume 1.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. spines in a line says:

    Q3 Emma and Miss Taylor’s relationship is an interesting one and I’m not quite sure what to think of it. It seems like it’s several different types of relationships at once – Miss Taylor as governess is someone who was paid by the family, so despite the time she’s spent with Emma they are still separated; she is also seen as a mother figure so this would explain the closeness of the two, though it doesn’t seem as strong as this to me. Miss Taylor almost serves more as a big sister than a mother in my eyes.

    With both Miss Taylor’s former role as a member of staff and her lower position in society compared to the Woodhouses, which is obviously very important to Emma though perhaps not as much in regards to Miss Taylor, it’s not really possible for them to have a very intimate relationship. Clearly Emma likes to share everything with her, and having her in her life for so long makes it only natural that she does so, but it feels to me that she often uses Miss Taylor as a sounding board. Miss Taylor sometimes “argues” with Emma, but more often than not she seems to support Emma’s side.

    In reading it, it does seem like a nice friendship for them both but I think their different standings in society still prevent them from making a deeper connection.


  4. spines in a line says:

    Q7 I think there’s probably a lot to be gained from this first sentence. I’ll be interested to look back on it once I’ve finished the book and really understand Emma’s character.

    I really like the end of the sentence, “with very little to distress or vex her”. I think it sets her up as pretty spoiled! The people in her life have made sure she hasn’t faced any major challenges. She’s certainly lived an easy life up to this point, I’m hoping she’ll actually be forced to deal with her actions with whatever happens in the rest of the book.


    • Chanda says:

      I agree that Emma hasn’t faced very many challenges, but at the same time dealing with her Father has to be challenge enough. She knows that he is ridiculous, but she does everything in her power to make sure that he has everything he needs. She even quarrels with her brother in law over how he is acting towards Mr. Woodhouse.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. spines in a line says:

    Q9 I’ve made some notes on a couple of the characters with some of my initial thoughts.

    With Emma, I feel like we’re almost getting the other side of the story than we did in S&S and P&P. While neither of those women were poor, they were in lower standing, especially as compared to their love interests, but here we have Emma who is very rich and the one giving rather than receiving insults on people’s standings.

    Mr. Woodhouse is certainly a funny character! I definitely wouldn’t like to live with him because he really would get on my nerves, but it’s funny reading from the outside of all the times he’s so concerned for everyone’s health. Dinner parties sound like they’re much more efficient when he’s not there! I’ll wait to give my judgment on how he relates to the other parental figures we’ve seen in the other books but at this point he seems very concerned with these little things that he doesn’t pay much attention to what’s going on around him.

    I’m not sure what to think of Harriet. Emma does seem to genuinely like her, even though initially it felt like she just took her in because it would reflect well on herself. I am worried for Harriet with this attention. Emma with all her notions of superiority and Harriet being easily swayed seems like a doomed match. Especially with poor Mr. Martin 😦

    I’m still a little confused by Knightley. Emma holds him in very high esteem but she seems to be making an exception for him since he’s a farmer (or at least owns a farm?). I do like that he’s able to put Emma in her place, especially in regards to Harriet with his saying she has been no friend to her. Listen to Knightley, Emma!

    I’m looking forward to see how each of these characters play out in the next volumes, and especially excited about meeting Frank Churchill. With his set-up as a handsome, young man, it certainly seems like they’re making way for a suitable love interest. I’m very suspicious of the handsome men in Austen books now! There always seems to be one who deceives the whole group, though I suppose we’ve already had that quota filled with Elton. I’m not confident that’ll be the last twist though – what else is coming??


    • Chanda says:

      I really like seeing the other side if the gentry. It’s different to see the richer side of the gentry instead of the poorer side. Not that any of Austen’s heroines are really poor, they just don’t have the best opportunities.
      Austen has done such a good job of setting up Frank Churchill. You know that he is going to make an appearance in Volume II. The anticipation is killing me, but I really liked seeing Mr. Knight key’s opinion on Frank without meeting him. It shows that he is able to look at it from an unbiased side and see how Frank not coming is really affecting Mrs. Weston when Emma, who is supposed to be her friend, cannot see it at all. Mr Knightley knows what is up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • spines in a line says:

        Yes it is nice that Mr. Knightley can be there for Mrs Weston! I think Emma gets a little too wrapped up in herself that she doesn’t pay very close attention to her friends’ needs


    • Kim P. says:

      Hi! Love your responses. Mr. Knightley is the magistrate and probably the largest land owner in Highbury, Robert Martin in a tenant farmer on Knightley’s estate. What I like about Mr. Knightley is that he’s very aware of class distinctions but he also always treats people fairly. He definitely sees through Emma, and that’s not all he sees through.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Chanda says:

    Question 5: This is not the first time that I have read Emma, but it has been quite a few years since I read it. Now that we are reading the novels back to back it is interesting to see the similarities and differences between Austen’s novels. I have found that I really like the conversations between the characters and it is nice to actually read them instead of being told what happened. This use of free indirect discourse makes this novel that much different from P&P and S&S. Emma is my least favourite Austen heroine, but I can still see the good in her. I think that she genuinely cares about the people in her life, even if sometimes it doesn’t quite come across like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sydney K says:

    I think i’m going to focus on Question 5, Sorry this is late BTW.

    I do think this novel reads a bit slower than the other two we have read. I’m not entirely sure why but it just seems to take longer to get into for me. It doesn’t grab me like S&S and P&P did.

    I don’t hate Emma but i wouldn’t want her as a best friend. She just seems to wrapped up in her own fantasies to hear other’s opinions. She’s not a teenager (if i am remembering right) so she should know better.

    I don’t mind Mr. Knightely, he seems to be the only character with an actual amount of common sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kim P. says:

    Q5, I last read Emma 7 yrs ago if I can believe Goodreads. I agree that it’s fun to read these books in a quick succession. As for Emma it’s interesting that she is the only Austen heroine who doesn’t have to be concerned with money. Jane herself says of Emma that she had created a character that no one but herself would love, so take heart if Emma is not your favorite character, she was sort of designed that way. I love Emma because she’s another Austen character who will learn an important lesson. Read on, friends!

    Liked by 1 person

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