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Rereading Jane Austen’s Novels: Emma

This time round, they didn’t seem so comic. Mama is foolish, dim or dead. Papa’s a sort of genial, pampered lunatic. No one thinks of anything but class. Talk about rural idiocy! Imagine a life of teas with Mrs. and Miss Bates, of fancywork and Mr. Elton’s sermons! No wonder lively girls get into states — No school! no friends! A man might dash to town just to have his hair cut in the fashion, while she can’t walk five miles on her own. Past twenty, she conceives a modest crush on some local stuffed shirt in a riding cloak who’s twice her age and maybe half as bright. At least he’s got some land and gets a joke — but will her jokes survive the wedding night? The happy end ends all. Beneath the blotter the author slides her page, and shakes her head, and goes to supper — Sunday’s joint warmed over, followed by whist, and family prayers, and bed.     This poem, by Katha Pollitt, was published in The New Republic, August 7 & 14, 1989. Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at  

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