"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."
I completely enjoyed this! (Actually- I'll admit, I'm actually writing this with a few chapters still to go- but I know I'll finish it today and I know what my opinion is. ;)) Emma has joined Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion as my favorite Jane Austen novels.
What a great cast of characters! So much reality and depth here, it's really amazing. You really get to know them.
I was surprised how little Knightley was actually in the book until the end. ("Knightley?! Never met him in her life, and she calls him Knightley! Insufferable woman!") And yet he was such a big part of the story... in fact, I would say he is the director and inspiration of the entire plot, (I love that the BBC version of the movie makes him the narrator.) I'll explain why...
I found it interesting to read - in chapter 47, after talking with Harriet - Emma thinking through how she had gone wrong from square one; in being rather vain (albeit in a quiet sort of way), making quick assumptions- and trying to set up everybody's destinies to please herself, by running with them.
In the movies we are (at the end) always made aware of her regret at having behaved ridiculously at times with Frank Churchill, and for not taking Mr Knightley's advice in letting Harriet alone in the first place and his cautions against her getting involved in her friends love life, by giving Harriet an idea of superiority that she didn't have. In the BOOK- she truly repents for ALL her past foolishness throughout the entire book. You can really see her character change and grow and she doesn't seem as selfish in regard to her "right" to Mr Knightley- she honestly sees that Harriets' defects were her own invention, and how Knightley may prefer someone like her to someone as stubborn and, well, meddling as herself.
It really makes you all the more glad that Emma "wins" him in the end- for, by that time, she was worthy of him, in that she had a complete turn-around and heart change, and is completely humbled. She is worthy of him now not only in rank, but in character- which she wasn't before.
Knightley knew all along that with time and just the right amount of prodding to get her to examine herself, "she would come to her senses", and try to better herself.
Knightley was the prompter, the man in the wings that you don't really notice but is working the whole time to move the story along and help everything go smoothly- and it all worked out in the end just as he predicted it would. Think about it- he was right about Elton, right about Harriet, right about Emma's matchmaking disasters, right about Frank, and then Frank and Jane, and right about himself being the right match and 'antidote' for Emma in the end- and yet all along he also knew in the back of his mind that Emma may not return his affections after all, and it made him nervous and fidgety (like all the times they talked about Churchill)- he was still a realistic human being.
AND- let's face it- his proposal was kind of the sweetest thing ever. :)
Well done, Knightley. Well done.