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A Portrait of Jane

 

Jane Austen is considered the first great female novelist of all time. Her works, which have been largely translated, republished and dramatized, have withheld the test of time. They are not sensational stories of excitement and danger, but of quiet lives and everyday misunderstandings. Jane was born in 1775 to a well-to-do clergyman in Hampshire, England, and began writing at a young age but her works were not published until many years later. 

 

Her seven volumes -- Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northranger Abbey, and Persuasion -- are the classics of her era. She showed such insight into human nature, writing with such humor and wit and yet depth that her characters have lived on while many others have faded. Instead of the dark tones of the Bronte sisters, the stories are largely light and well-meaning but with their own times of trial.

 

With Emma, she said that she would create a character that no one save herself would very much like. And thus came about the matchmaking, well-meaning but often cynical Emma Woodhouse. Perhaps the most popular of all of her works due to the attentions bestowed upon it in the 1996 adaptation (of which this site is dedicated) and the earlier modern translation in Clueless, Emma is a story of a young woman with too much time on her hands. Arguably, Paltrow's version takes some liberties with the book and gives the heroine herself more of a likable nature than the author originally intended. But we will continue this discussion on the Other Works pages.

 

Shocking as it may be, I have never fully read one of Austen's novels. I have, however, seen most of the modern film adaptations and have grown to enjoy her quite, well-paced storyline. Ordinarily I thought that the films were boring and unimaginative, but as I've reached a maturity in my comprehension levels, I've found that there is often much more beneath the surface than can be settled at a first glance. 

 

Why I like Emma the most is due to the wit and charm that is brought out by Paltrow, the fact that Emma does indeed change by the end of the story, and that Mr. Knightley is above reproach. Indeed, in our modern society much lacking in true courage and heroism, her stories that delight and inspire without being morally corrupted are very much at home.