Reading Emma for the first time was a funny experience, mostly because Amy Heckerling’s film Clueless has lodged itself in my brain as the preeminent telling of this story. Many times while reading I kept referring back that film to figure out the plot and the characters’ relationships.
This year has been my introduction to reading Austen, and I find it interesting how her heroines often subvert the norms of class and patriarchy, but the tension is largely resolved by giving them happiness within those restrictions. Emma Woodhouse may declare that she does not ever want to marry, but in the end she does—in a match that allows her relative independence and agency. Elsewhere Emma champions Harriet Smith’s upward class mobility until Harriet becomes a romantic rival, and the novel resolves this by placing Harriet in a happy marriage in the “proper” class stratum.
Reading Emma also brought this fun exchange between Jordan and my eldest:
[Jordan, talking to Em about movie adaptations]
Jordan: Clueless is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, but they modernized it
Em: When did it come out?
Jordan: The 90s
Em: Oh. So not really that modern, then.