Favorites February: Emma, Volume 2

Back again with another Favorites February! This week I’m taking a look at the second volume of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma. Emma is considered by some book critics and historians as the “perfect novel”, and a lot of the things that make the novel so great come into play during volume 2. I hope you enjoy, and as always, play along in the comments!

Synopsis

Frank Churchill finally comes to Highbury, meeting all of Emma’s expectations for an amiable young man. Could she be falling in love after all? The only way to find out: a ball! Mr. Elton also returns with his new bride, both ready to spite Emma at any chance.

Why I Love This Book: Volume 2

  • The real actual problems with Emma’s character are more deeply explored and less superficial.
  • Mr. Knightly starts to really come in to his own as character with a personality.
  • The satire is sooooo biting.
  • Especially on the re-read, catching the sub-text about Jane Fairfax.
  • Maybe this makes me a snob, but I feel like a lot of the finer points of this volume hinge on a working knowledge of society of that era, and I feel like such a smarty-pants for catching it all!

Adaptation Feature

Clueless (1995)

Just going to throw this out there: Clueless is the best Emma adaptation. There, I said it.

Even though it takes place in a completely different era, Clueless is extremely faithful to the original text both in terms of content and tone. After this most recent re-read of Emma I was especially struck by how many details of the story transferred so well. Little things like Tye burning things that remind her of Elton and Cher trying to read more, to big things like Christian saving Tye from the hooligans at the mall. It’s all there in Emma. 

The biggest discrepancies are the lack of a Jane Fairfax character (which is fine, the direction they went was better for 90s Beverly Hills anyway) and Cher getting help up at gunpoint.

The amazing thing about Clueless is that it really stands on its own. It’s a great 90s teen film even if you had absolutely no idea that it’s based on a classic Austen novel. The dialogue is hilarious, the acting is surprisingly on-point, and Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd were adorable together. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough!

Discussion Questions

Why does it take Frank Churchill so long to pay his respects to Mrs. Weston? How and why does Emma’s initial opinion of him change?

Well, of course, having read the novel before I know that not everything is as it seems on this front, and not all is revealed until the very end of the novel. Ostensibly Mr. Churchill hasn’t paid his respects to Mr. and Mrs. Weston because his aunt, who is his benefactor, won’t let him. This could easily be attributed to jealousy of Mr. Weston as being Frank’s actual parent, something I believe many adopted guardians experienced, especially in this day and age.

However, as I said, there’s more going on here. I am inclined to agree with Mr. Knightley, that Frank could have come to visit if it was important to him. I think Mrs. Churchill’s “illness” makes for a convenient excuse for him to not exert himself. After all, once Highbury becomes his object he becomes a shockingly frequent visitor: at the end of Volume 2 he is returning ALREADY! *gasp* So I think Mrs. Churchill is definitely to blame, but not because of her illness. No. It’s a result of not bringing up Frank Churchill properly, not teaching him the importance of doing his duty to his family.

What are the sources of Mr. Knightley’s dislike of Frank Churchill?

Like I mentioned, Mr. Knightley believes that Frank is neglecting his father and step-mother, showing him to be an unkind and unfeeling son, which Mr. Knightley can’t abide by. However, there is no doubt that he also sees how Emma thinks and feels about Frank Churchill, even before they ever meet. Definitely he is more than a little jealous!

Did you spot any clues that revealed the ulterior motives of Frank Churchill?

The first time I read this book, absolutely not. But upon re-reading it, they are everywhere. In particular I noticed how he went out of his way to always be in a certain place, and how over-the-top he was in trying to play off as though he didn’t want to be there. But then going anyway. Also, his absence for a haircut was particularly glaring now that I knew what it signified. The other party was also much less discrete than they believed themselves to be.

Why am I bothering to be so mysterious? I doubt anyone reading this blog post hasn’t also read Emma. Shout out to you if you haven’t! Go read it!

Why does Miss Bates talk so much? Compare and contrast two compulsive talkers—Miss Bates and Mrs. Elton.

Poor Miss Bates. I always read this as though she talked incessantly because she was rather like me. But in watching the BBC adaptation, it came to my attention that likely she talks so much when she is at home with her mother to fill the long silences. It carries over to when others are around because it’s such a force of habit. Also, her life has been so difficult, she goes out of her way to really celebrate the little things, which can be obnoxious to read about, but I really admire.

Mrs. Elton, on the other hand, is just full of herself. She talks all the time because she wants to be the most important person in the room, and that’s how she thinks she can establish herself as so!

I think it’s worth pointing out, here, that when those two women are not about, Emma does the exact same thing. She tells everyone exactly what she is thinking all the time so that they know she is the smartest, most beautiful woman in Highbury. Yet when Mrs. Elton does it, it’s vulgar. Oh, Emma.

Marriage is a central device in Emma, but not all of the marriages are necessarily good. Discuss the matches between Mr. Weston and Miss Taylor, and Mr. Elton and Mrs. Elton.

I think this is an interesting comparison to make, because neither Miss Taylor nor Miss Hawkins is particularly well-connected or important. However, Miss Hawkins is clearly superior in terms of fortune. Yet it is Miss Taylor who marries up, while Miss Hawkins marries down. Why?

I think it comes to class and humility. Miss Taylor presumes nothing, and even after falling in love with Mr. Weston never tries to assert herself as important in the community. But Miss Hawkins is dying to be a person of consequence and fancies herself a fine lady. This leads her to be constantly asserting herself, and talking herself up and everyone else down. Is it any surprise no man but Mr. Elton ever wanted her?

Mrs. Weston is a good match for Mr. Weston, which is why they fell in love in the first place. They have so much in common, their opposite temperaments compliment each other without causing strife, and they are both good-natured enough for domestic bliss. Mr. and Mrs. Elton, however, are neither particularly well-natured, and so (I think) are destined to make each other miserable for the rest of their lives. But on the bright side, at least they have their pride.

3 thoughts on “Favorites February: Emma, Volume 2

  1. I definitely think of this as a perfect novel!! I definitely think clueless stands on its own and I really like that you’re including adaptations here 😀 That’s such a great comparison between the Elton’s marriage and the Westons!! Great points about the parallels and differences!

    Liked by 1 person

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