Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Emma”

Author Spotlight: Austen’s Emma Dilemma


Next to Pride and Prejudice,Jane Austen’s Emma seems to be the novel most cinematized. Case in point, another Emma opened to theatres as the covoid shut them down. Just as we got our hopes up for an Austen on screen they were dashed—much like the promise of Frank Churchill arriving for a visit and then not showing up.

Ozge’s World meme
(oh that Frank—tsk)

The basics of Emma are Austen pointing out the class differences in Regency society along with following the exploits of a rich girl’s ennui as we wait for her character arc of improvement. In the mean time, the reader is entertained by a couple of intrigues by way of mistaken romances. The foundation of oh so many stories we see today.

What is problematic for the reader is deciding if Emma is likable as a character. There is no doubt Lizzie Bennet wins the Favored Austen Girl Award, but are we supposed to appreciate Emma as well? It’s doubtful. Even Jane Austen admitted to have created a character that only she would probably like.

Lizzie through the years

The novel starts out leaning towards the idea Emma is a privileged girl with the possibility of becoming or could possibility be a (ready for it?) snob:

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.

With that introduction, Emma could go either way: beloved of all or too good to believe. Austen indicates that Emma Woodhouse being pleasant, pretty, privileged has one obvious fault:

The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself…

And that’s where it gets interesting when it comes to interpreting Emma for the silver screen.

The faces of Emma through the cinematic lens

Gwyneth Paltrow leads out with her elegant, polished Emma in the 1996 version. This version applies a favored eye towards Emma who is presented as a charming young woman who struggles to emerge on the other side of being accomplished in the art of having “grown up.” The story fairly follows Austen’s novel. Emma is quite likable and the audience appreciates her struggles as she blunders her way through the office of being a beautiful rich daughter of a gentlemen.

Gwyenth Paltrow providing perfection

Also in 1996 is the lesser known version starring Kate Beckinsdale whose Emma is just tad snobbier than Gwenth’s version and her character arc is much less visible. This version seems to focus more on the class differences, with wide shots of servants and the poor which populate Highbury.

Kate Beckinsdale portrays a refined demure heroine

Then there is the leap to 2009 with Romali Garai appearing in a decidedly contemporary version. Although the four part series is quite lush and pretty with its costumes and setting, it lacks Regency decorum. The director’s intent was to create a hybrid Emma by dressing everyone up Regency style, yet acting as if they are in a modern rom-com. This Emma acts more like a teen debutante with her expressive eyes and outward manner, she is all dressed up but forgetting how to behave. She even allows Frank Churchill to rest his head on her lap during the Box Hill picnic. *Shocking*

Romali Garai romps as a Regency girl just wants to have fu-un

There is the Clueless version—a sort of the ‘90’s offering of taking a classic and setting it in high school as in Ten Things I Hate About You or She’s the Man. This is not a Regency Emma and kind of pays tribute to Austen’s Emma, but it’s not the book. Maybe not even the Sparknotes version.

Then there is the 2020 version. This was supposed to be the senior lit class outing as we had just wrapped up our Austen unit. Good thing I didn’t reserve the bus since school went into soft closure while the theatres went into shutter mode. I have been waiting to view this newest entry for ever so long. My anticipation turned into disappointment as the entire movie became too, too much. The colors, clothing, setting is that of Easter candy cloyingly overdone. The tone of the movie is snarky, with Emma coming off as a mean girl. And just when we think she isn’t quite human, she bleeds, quite literally, when faced with being really, truly in love.

Don’t cross Ana Taylor-Joy’s Emma

With all these Emmas to chose from it’s difficult to decide which best represents Austen’s ideal. Paltrow’s poised Regency princess?Beckinsdale’s aloof elite gentlemen’s daughter? Garai’s winsome, youthful rich girl? Taylor-Joy’s prickly fashion plate?

If Austen’s intent was to showcase the time period while gently mocking the societal hierarchy by inserting some well-placed humor, as we watch Emma’s character arc emerge I would say place Paltrow’s Emma with its range of characters, infuse with the gorgeous palette of Garai’s version and insert Beckinsdale’s pointed shots of the struggling lower classes. Not sure about Taylor-Joy’s contribution and I am Clueless about adaptions and where they fit in Austen remakes.

If you are an Austen Emma fan, what are your thoughts towards the Emma dilemma? What is she all about—favored princess, snob, airhead, snark—or somewhere in between?

Gently Persuaded


Raise your hand if you prefer Pride and Prejudice.

All right, now raise your hand for Emma.

How about Sense and Sensibility?

Mansfield Park? Okay.

Northhanger Abbey? Just asking.

And the rest of you? It’s got to be for Persuasion–right?

Well, Jane only wrote six novels; it’s got to be for one of them.

Hmm, I shall gently try to persuade you to cast your Austen vote for Persuasion.

Reason 1:

  • Pride and Prejudice gets much too much attention.  Jane has six literary children and P&P will become unbearably too spoiled with so much fuss. Look at all the celebratory brouhaha over the publishing of the novel! Goodness…

Reason 2:

  • Anne and Frederick don’t have to go through that messy “love me, love me not” business found in JA’s other plots; they already love each other.  Getting to the point where they re-realize it makes it so much more satisfying than the on/off dilemma.

Reason 3:

  • Persuasion has THE best love letter.  Here is a partial:

“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.” 

Who could not met upon receiving this as an encouragement?

Reason 4:

  • Anne and Frederick are older and have been knocked around a bit in life and more truly represent the reality that love’s course is not perfect. In other words: their love is more relatable than the fairy-talish idea of sitting around and waiting for Mr or Ms Right to pop along when least expected (okay–Emma had a bit of that going on).

Reason 5:

  • the 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root captures well the complicated tango of emotions these two separated lovers endure as they find their way back into each other’s hearts and arms.  Amanda Root’s transformation from wilted and worn down spinister-in-the-making to resolute refreshed woman is transfixing.

True love lingers and is not forgotten

So, five amazing reasons why Persuasion should become THE Jane Austen first mentioned in her stable of renowned novels.

Have I persuaded you?

English: Persuasion(ch. 9) Jane Austen: In ano...

English: Persuasion(ch. 9) Jane Austen: In another moment … someone was taking him from her. Français : Persuasion(ch. 9) Frederick libère Anne de son jeune neveu, qui l’étouffe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

Egads, Those Cads of Literature


You know who they are.  Those bad boys who jilt the girl, cheat the honest friend, and play havoc with the plot.  They are the cads of literature.  Having finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion I have added Mr. Elliot to the list.  His subterfuge was most deplorable.  Then again, I do adore how she swiftly cast him aside for someone much more worthy of her devotion.  My favorite heroines have done just that–put those cads in their place.  Since I am on a Jane Austen revisiting read here are some cads that live in her books:

Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park)–I detected cad from the very start

Frank Churchill (Emma)–what a naughty game you played with so many hearts

Oh, Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility)–we wanted so much to like you

Elliot (Persuasion)–did you really think you could turn Anne’s head or her heart away from Wentworth?

Tsk tsk, Wickham (Pride and Prejudice)–your charm could not cover your secret faults

 

As to Northhanger Abbey, I haven’t decided who the cad truly is.  It’s up on my list to review.  As to other literary cads–any nominees?  Rhett Butler comes to mind, but then was he a cad or simply a foil for Scarlett?

Happy reading!

English: Engraving of Steventon rectory, home ...

English: Engraving of Steventon rectory, home of the Austen family during much of Jane Austen’s lifetime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book, Book, Booker Award


c. 50

c. 50 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One, Two, Three What do I appreciate…BOOKS!!!

Oh yes, indeedy I love books and being nominated for the Booker Award is insanely amazing–I would apologize for my enthusiasm,yet how can I contain my happy dance about being nominated for a blogger award that is all about what this blog is all about–books and all its components, like writing, writers, reviews, all that words stuff.

So a big ol’ thanks to valerierlawson for nominating me.  Here is what it looks like:

And here is what it is all about:

The award goes to blogs that are at least 50% about books–allowance for readings or writing (glad about that)

The next part is tough. To receive the award the blogger must share the top five favorite books ever read. My, my, my–that’s almost cruel.  I will have to pause and give it some thought.

The other part is almost as tough since I must select  5-10 other wonderful book blogs to pass on the award.  I’ll start here first:

Without a doubt Literary Tiger. I appreciate LT’s comments, insights, and humor.  A definite Book Booster.

Another definite is Eagle-Eyed Editor whose wit and way with words is wonderful. I enjoy our blog chit-chats.

If we are talking bookworms (says so right on the banner), let’s mention shelovesreading. This blogger loves books, writes about books, promotes books. That’s a blogger worth a Booker Award mention.

Now back to favorite reads.  These are by no means my ultimate top five reads; however, they are among the books I would pack in a trunk if being dropped off on an island ala Tom Hanks and no volleyballs were about.

1.  The Bible.

2.  To Kill a Mockingbird

3.  Pride and Prejudice or maybe Emma or do I have to chose one Jane Austen?

4.  Jane Eyre

5. The Oxford Dictionary.

If you want to know my reasons why, drop in and we can chat.  I love talking books.  I do indeed.

Here are some other book blogs to consider:

1000novelsandme

bibliophiliacs

If I missed mentioning your blog and you know I should know about it I will plead finals week weariness. I am creating this post after a 12 hour day of meetings, doling out finals, and grading finals.  Is there any dark chocolate in the house?

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: