It’s lovely to be young, beautiful, rich, and wise. Emma Woodhouse knows she has been blessed in many ways, not the least of which is in her natural gift for arranging the affairs of others. Having arranged a perfect marriage between her former governess Miss Taylor and the wealthy Mr. Weston—in spite of the doubts cast on her matchmaking prowess by her friend and neighbor Mr. Knightley—Emma launches a plan to save her new protégée, Harriet Smith, from an unsuitable marriage to Robert Martin, a modestly prosperous farmer.
The plan begins to go awry when Mr. Elton, the village vicar, who is her intended match for Harriet, misconstrues Emma’s attentions. Things degenerate further with the arrivals of Mr. Weston’s wealthy, handsome, charming son Frank Churchill and the beautiful and accomplished Jane Fairfax. Emma sees Frank as a new potential husband for Harriet, while others believe his sights are set directly on Emma, who has vowed never to marry. She keeps a wary eye on Jane, but Jane has worries of her own. Meanwhile, the normally clear-eyed, self-possessed Mr. Knightley is suddenly acting strangely.
In Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen has created a heroine whom, she said, “no-one but myself will much like.” In fact, Emma is a complex and recognizable character whose many faults and flaws are balanced by a generous heart and, ultimately, the rare and priceless ability to be honest with herself.
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