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Emma: An Overview

Emma, by Jane Austen, first published in December 1815, is a comic novel about the perils of misconstrued romance. The author explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian-Regency England; she also creates a lively ‘comedy of manners’ among her characters. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like.” In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma, however, is also rather spoiled; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; and she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives. Emma Woodhouse is a young, beautiful, witty, and privileged woman in Regency England. She lives on an estate in Surrey in the village of Highbury with her father, a hypochondriac who is excessively concerned for the health and safety of his loved ones. Emma’s friend and only critic is the gentlemanly George Knightley, her neighbour from the adjacent estate of Donwell, and brother of her elder sister Isabella’s husband. As the novel opens, Emma has just attended the wedding of Miss Taylor, her best friend and former governess. Having introduced Miss Taylor to her future husband, Mr Weston, Emma takes credit for their marriage, and decides that she rather likes matchmaking. Against Mr. Knightley’s advice, Emma forges ahead with her new interest, and tries to match her new friend Harriet Smith, a sweet but none-too-bright girl of seventeen–described as “the natural daughter

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