Friday, September 10, 2010
Just in case anyone needs to reach me, I'm having my mail forwarded to the sixth circle of heck.
As I tighten the chin strap on my hard hat in preemptive defense against the incoming rocks, I have to say, I'm not sure I'm liken' me some Miss Woodhouse. Austen's book, yes, very much, but for Austen's "heroine", the best I can do is "meh".
I was more than a little put out when "handsome, clever and rich" Emma Woodhouse used emotional blackmail to manipulate her "own sweet little friend", Miss Harriet Smith regarding one Mr. Martin of Abbey-Mill Farm. I gave Miss Woodhouse a time-out. She spent several days in the corner thinking about what she'd done. Okay, well, I'm actually the one who's been thinking about what she's done, and what I've been thinking is, "Shame on you, Miss Woodhouse."
I know I know. Emma wants to help. Emma likes Harriet. Emma's scheming seems motivated by a desire to better Harriet's standing in society during a period in time where that sort of thing is very very important to a connectionless woman. Emma is hemmed in by her own standing in society, prettily hemmed, but hemmed none the less. I get all that. I'm just not happy about it, but I am surprised. Aren't all these Austen heroines dear, angelic creatures?
Emma is the protagonist, and so, like all Austen's protagonist, she should be likable. Right? I now suspect she could just as well be the antagonist and the book becomes much more engaging when Emma isn't the girl with the "happy disposition".
According to her nephew and biographer, James Edward Austen-Leigh, Miss Jane Austen was said to have written Emma intending that we NOT like its main character. Austen-Leigh quotes his aunt before she began Emma as having said, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." Well done, Jane. I'm not all together sure Miss Woodhouse is to my liking, but I'm reading again.