In conceiving Emma Woodhouse, Jane Austen set out to create a heroine “whom no-one but myself will much like.” A naive and spoiled young lady, she is at the pinnacle of local society and lives with her doddering father. Her neighbor Mr. Knightley is the hero of the tale. Ten years her senior, he sees Emma’s faults, and delights in pointing them out to her.
Emma, as an heiress, has no need to marry, but she feels strongly that her less fortunate friends must certainly do so, and she is tireless in promoting the best interests of those she holds dear. Her first project is her new friend Harriet Smith, a young lady of unknown parentage, but sweet disposition. After thoroughly disrupting a match between Harriet and a handsome young local farmer, Emma pushes Harriet to aim for the vicar, who himself has his eye on Emma. By the time that misunderstanding is untangled, Emma has Mr. Knightley thoroughly disapproving of her. Against the backdrop of Highbury society, Emma is a charming tale of a young woman coming of age, learning to mind her own business, and discovering her own heart resides with the strong, steadfast gentleman next door.
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