CRITICAL: Write a letter that responds to this early criticism of Jane Austen’s Emma when it was first published:
“A soppy romance with totally unrealistic characters set in an isolated village that has got no relevance to wider human society. I can’t recommend this book to anyone!”
To whom it may concern,
I write this letter in response to your criticism of Jane Austen’s revolutionary novel Emma. I would like to tackle four of the claims that you have made in your criticism.
Firstly, on the surface, the novel may seem like a ‘soppy romance’ as you describe it based on upper-class societies of the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. However, beneath the surface, the novel critiques the social and political values of the time. After Emma discovers the truth about her inability to allow fate to take its course and the effect that it has on those that she cares about, she is able to acknowledge her feelings for Mr Knightly leading to a romance between the pair.
Secondly, In the novel, Emma attempts to mould reality into the narrative she has concocted in her mind by creating relationships between those around her. In your criticism, you claim that the novel is about ‘totally unrealistic characters’, however, you cannot say that at one point in your life you have not been trapped in your ego, thinking that you know what is best for those around you and trying to mould reality into the narrative that you have formed in your mind.
Harriet is a young girl with unknown parentage trying to fit into a higher social class, Mr Knightly is a kind gentleman who becomes the catalyst for Emma’s journey of realisation and Mrs Elton is an upper-class snob with an elitist mindset and an inability to truly understand anyone who does not fit the mould of a superficial noble. So tell me now, are there no similarities between those around you, your family, friends and co-workers and the characters in the novel.
The novel explores challenging issues such as the effect of human vanity, the damaging effect of one’s imagination, marriage and gender expectations. Therefore, while the novel is based on upper-class societies, the issues and themes explored transcend all social hierarchies and apply to all human beings in society.
Finally, I would have to disagree with you again as I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in literature. In fact, I would recommend this novel to everyone as it is brilliant in its exploration of one’s inner psyche while being highly entertaining.
Furthermore, I am hopeful that in due time you are able to re-read the novel with an appreciation of its brilliance.
Yours truly, Alina Goro