Let's Talk Emma! Part III

Update - 2/04/2010

It's time to finish off our discussion of Jane Austen's Emma! We've had some great points brought up, but now we'd like you to share your thoughts about Volume III of the classic novel using the comment field below.

(We'll be discussing Emma until February 8th, so there is still time to get your copy and support KCET in the process.)

WHAT: The KCET Online Book Club is hosting three discussions on Jane Austen's Emma. Using the comments below, you can share your thoughts about both the book and an exciting new interpretation of Emma, airing on Masterpiece: Classic this Sunday, January 31st on KCET.

WHEN: Feel free to comment at anytime, but we will be allowing open commenting on Friday, January 22nd, from 11am to 5pm PST. That means, for the entire afternoon, your comments will be appearing automatically in the area below. (Remember, use your commenting powers for good!)

WHERE: Right here!

TOPICS: Jane Austen, Masterpiece Classics, Emma, Book Clubs, & Reading.

WHO: Members of the KCET staff and you.

Let the book-clubbing continue!

The Volume II Quote of the Day:

"Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of."

This is an exacting, complicated claim by Austen. What does she believe an 'interesting situation' to be, exactly? What specific situations in Emma is she referring to? Is Austen wrong to assume that a young person must be married or dead in order to be well-regarded? And does marriage even ensure that regard?

Today's Quotes of the Day:

"I would much rather have been merry than wise."

"Goldsmith tells us, that when lovely woman stoops to folly, she has nothing to do but die; and when she stoops to be disagreeable, it is equally to be recommended as a clearer of ill-fame."


Reactions to KCET's Emma


Next on the KCET Book Club, Small Island!

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  

Very excited for this!

Friday is January 22nd.

You're right John. The discussion is open today, Friday January 22nd. Apologies for the confusion!

What fun!! Thank you for starting this!!

Since I just recently learned about the Book Club, I am not prepared to discuss Part 1 today, however, will be doing so next week.

Dear Admins:

Any chance of considering extending the comment section to at least 9 or 10pm for working people. This would also allow everyone to comment on comments. :))

Also, and I know this may be difficult, but after the last week of comments for each book, would you think about a once-a-month "live chat" for interaction (maybe the Monday night after the last Sunday of the final airing of each book) - though I know the volume of people logging in may make a "live chat" impossible. Just a thought.

Hey Diane,

Those are both great suggestions! We will extend the open comments to close of business days for us - 7 pm. Unfortunately, we don't have staff available to monitor the live chat after that.

That said, one of our goals is to build community around books and KCET programming, so we will be looking for folks to deputize as community moderators down the line, thereby extending our ability to do things like have open discussions. We'll have more details down the road.

In terms of live chats, we're currently not built out on the tech side to support them, but we will definitely be looking into more real time tools as we move forward.

Part of this process is not just talking about the book, but also figuring out what folks want out of a book club, so let us know!


Gary - KCET.org Site Editor

"We will extend the open comments to close of business days for us - 7 pm. Unfortunately, we don't have staff available to monitor the live chat after that."

LOL, Did think of that post comment. Thank you for the extra effort on KCET's part!

"also figuring out what folks want out of a book club"

I belong to a few book clubs through the Los Angeles and Santa Monica library system, for me, the best part about a book discussion is the different reactions. If I really liked something or disliked, its fun to see how others reacted.

Also, if I totally disliked a book, I enjoy the positive reactions from others, which has helped me understand a book better; and, sometimes, changed my view.

Just joined the club! Just ordered the book. Looking forward to reading and participating next week.

Welcome Laura!

We're looking forward to talking about Emma with you!


To get the conversation started, I wanted to throw out a "pop quiz" for those who have been able to do the reading, but I realize some of the questions might be subjects for a good discussion as well.

At the beginning of the book what has changed in Emma's life?

How does Emma distract herself?

How does Emma choose her friends?

What are Emma's main goals?

What are her good qualities? what are her faults? Do you agree?

What is Mr. Woodhouse's biggest fear? Is he a gentleman? Do people like him or his money?

What are the options for a young woman to survive in Victorian times?

What do they do all day? What are their responsibilities?

What are signs of "good character"? How do the characters judge each other Would that still be true today?

Is Emma a sort of feminist? - my personal favorite thought while I'm reading ;)

Great start-up questions, especially since we are not face-to-face.

Like I said, just learned about the Book Club. Will be prepared next week. :))

From what I gather, matchmaking is Emma's ultimate goal, something that that is hard for me to believe because it seems a tad unrealistic.

Is anyone truly that selfless? Or is she hiding from thinking about her own place in the world? Her self-awareness seems oddly low at this point.

I have to confess that I need a refresher (been a few years), but I what I always remember about Emma is that I didn't really like her much. What is the first sentence again - "spoiled, clever and rich?" She is not half as clever as she thinks she is but okay on the other stuff - maybe the next remake of the book should be set in Crawford, TX.

I am an old man so I chuckled at "is she a feminist?" I think she is free from worrying about money so she can afford to be a certain kind of busy body. This book is a comedy but even though I remember laughing I don't ever remember really rooting for Emma, it was a lot cringing, like watching Larry David on victorian Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Sorry for not being prepared. Maybe next week

I guess the thing about Emma being "unlikeble" is that it sets up the comedy of her comeuppance for me. I like your Larry David comparison, especially in that it seems to me that freedom "worrying about money" sets both of them free to be entertain us though their blundering about.

Maybe it is 2010 ears, but I also have a hard time not hearing the gathering storm of comeuppance in that first sentence - "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."

Yeah, at this point I agree with Elias, although I think I remember reading that Austen did not intend for Emma to be a likable character in the least. The original idea for the book was to create a protagonist that only Jane herself liked.

Whether I like or dislike Emma is something I keep bouncing back and forth on.

Right now I actually see her as just immature and caught between the realistic requirement for women in her times to marry and her own lofty position of not needing to because she has personal wealth.

I also think she is controlling and has learned to value intellect over emotions. She navigates the social world like a chess game, but she also has so many emotional dependents that it isn't a wonder that what she values most is not having to rely on anybody else.

I used to think of her just as selfish and a bit silly, but now as I read the book I find myself giving her much more credit. I think it might be that the movies and tv shows tend to show a shallower version of Emma than Jane Austen wrote.

Once I got used to "slogging" through the style of English prose in Austen's day, I agree that I think of Emma and all her friends and family as stifingly self-absorbed about their station in life, who's going to marry who and why, and what is best for others, rather than herself. I do--and I don't--"like" Emma, but as the story goes on (and I see it portrayed on Masterpiece Theatre,) maybe I'll like her better. It's amazing that Austen could sit and hand-compose all that detail with a quill pen! Wow!

I think Austen is pretty clear about what she thinks and what she wants us to feel

"The real evils indeed of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her."

The pleasure of this book is in the intricacy of how Emma ends up perceiving this danger to her and how she gets past it. In her own way Emma is a underdog, only instead of being held back by social constraints it is her own POV and short sightedness that is her antagonist. It's a classic set up, but we are a bit unfair to her because we come in seeing her as a kind of "Clueless" airhead. Not to knock Clueless! That is a great movie, just that it is a mistake to only see Emma Woodhouse through the lens of Cher Horowitz.

Maybe we should laugh more and judge her less?

Sarita is right. Perhaps, since we think of Jane Austen as such a prominent literary figure, we forget to take her novels as lightly as she intended.

Sorry, Gary, one more question. I know that discussion on Part 2 starts next Friday... so, after 7pm tonight, will this Part 1 section still be open to post comments; or, do we hold any after thoughts pertaining to Part 1 for the new section to open?

Hi Diane,

You will still be able to comments after 7, it's just that they will he held for moderation in the morning.

But I will make sure to pop by this evening so that they don't sit all night.

Additionally, your feedback has me thinking that we should move the subsequent discussions to a day when it's easier to staff after hours. We scheduled this session to lead into the Sunday premiere of Emma on Masterpiece, but maybe we should move the next two to the Monday after the air date?

Many thanks for your comments, Diane! This is a work in progress and your feedback is very helpful!

Jane Austen always writes about the perils of young ladies in society, love and matchmaking. Reminds me of Gossip Girl and a teaching stint at a prestigious prep school in the valley. Stylish over-developed rich girls dominating the skinny boy nerds.

CC, although Gossip Girl might tackle a similar setting (i.e. the lives of rich, bored women), I don't think the underlying motivations are the same as those on display in Emma. Austen, in many ways, despises the formalities of the aristocratic life she covers, often subtly ridiculing them. The writers of Gossip Girl, on the other hand, seem much more willing to embrace those values that so often annoying us today, such as the hot boyfriend and cute handbag.

I have to say that this is one of my favorite books by Jane Austen. I don't think Emma is selfish as many have suggested. Losing a parent a an early age can be quite debilitating. I speak from experience. Perhaps all of Emma's scheming is a way to gain a sense of control. Yes, it's obvious and yes it's selfish. But, perhaps, it is an attempt to make sense of what she sees/feels around her.

Just learned about this club--what a great idea! Will all books selected be tied to programs on KCET? Can we submit suggestions as to future selections?

I'm participating in this because it's a classic and I'd like to add some substance to my reading...but it's tough to plow through. The hope is that I'll take away something from the comments submitted.

At the heart of all our lives I guess relationships are the core, but the Emma's pre-occupation with her matchmaking couldn't be more shallow. Emma has a mental checklist for everyone. You either get the marks or you're out. Her goal is to take care of everyone but herself --appearing to be a control freak desperately afraid to put herself on the line.

At this point, the only character I'm caring about would be Mr. (George) Knightley, family friend. He stands up to Emma and expresses differing opinions. He's 16 years her senior and the picture of wisdom (at least so far).

Looking forward to seeing KCET'S interpretation on Sunday night. Even if I'm not totally appreciating the story, visually it's going to be a treat.

Regarding Emma being spoiled…. for me, Ms. Austen put it in our minds in the first two paragraphs of her description of Emma – “rich living in a comfortable home, little to distress or vex her, the lady of the house from early on, has an indulgent father, the power of having too much her own way and a disposition to think a little two much of herself.” Most know the storyline, but since we’re talking only about Part 1, its easy for some of us to feel this way. :))

LOL, the more I read and the story comes back to me, the matchmaking is a hobby for Emma. I feel she does it with kindness and love in her heart.

I feel that Mr. Knightley is the male version of Emma. Him feeling that the friendship between Emma and Harriet “is a bad thing” sounds like something Emma would say.

Sorry, one more thought for Gary and other Admins to think about – have Fri-Sun for those of us who would like to discuss our reading assignment; then, Mon-Thu both the book and PBS’ presentation for that week.

So, what did everyone think of the PBS version?

It took me awhile to get use to the lead actress, but then she grew on me. On the whole, I liked it.

Was it me or did this new version not follow the book? I think some scenes were moved around and placed in a different order.

Jane Austen's supporting characters always add so much to
the narrative. Jane's father is one of the author's classics
and knowing him helps us to understand Emma. There is
humor in Austen's novels and we need to consider Emma
as a personality in progress, somewhat amusing with her
meddling mistakes and misreading of her friends. Personally,
Emma is one of my favorites, after P and P and Persuasion.

After reading about KCET Online Book Club, Valier Library Montana (in small prairie town USA)-they got "Emma" for me to read with notice of Masterpiece Classic's premiere.

I have read Jane Austin's "Emma" and I opine...

-In 1816, high society people life seemingly had nothing but time at hand. Hence, Jane Austin's book characters in 2010 was a tired road-to-hoe (read). Beginning chapters had me disliking Emma for her snotty/contemptuous/not nice behavior and Emma's friendship with Harriet and how it grew shockingly bad.

It wasn't until I visualized Jane Austin with feather/ink painting pages -how she started her book magnetizing reader just to Emma (a spoiled, not worldly, boring bitch). Emma was but one in a kingdom of forget-me-nots. Every chapter individuals minic Emma -women quacked mindlessly about nothing as they embroilered, they made up conventions of polite behavior as they spoke, blabbled beyond belief. Men were not different -they were status quo party parrots. The book contains endless paragraphs of cackle about -am I pretty, I feel pretty; I feel faint, there be a cold draft on the ladies, bring on the carriages...

To finish "Emma" feels goods... and "feels better all the time."


how are you determining the "volumes"?

Dee, the soundrecording and the individual book states where each volume begins. I took out the "Complete Works of Jane Austen" or something like that, from the library, and the chapters for EMMA do not match up nor shows where the volumes begin.

The Emma Quote of the Day:

"Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of."

This is an exacting, complicated claim by Austen. What does she believe an 'interesting situation' to be, exactly? What specific situations in Emma is she referring to? Is Austen wrong to assume that a young person must be married or dead in order to be well-regarded? And does marriage even ensure that regard?

I think Austen's novels really need to be taken as a light view of life in a particular period where there were a lot of rules and social standards. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Regency)

There is no doubt that the issues Austen's characters stress over in her books are trivial by the standards of women today but for women at that time their whole livelihood relied upon them being able to fit appropriately into their place. Their only ambition could be to marry well and secure themselves a materially comfortable future.

Austen always has the spectre of poverty and being from society as examples in her books, even if her main characters generally manage to avoid those circumstances.

I've been reminding myself that the height of education would be considered literacy (in multiple languages) and the ability to run a household, including the ability to entertain. This isn't really just for a woman's education either. Also, the classes essentially seem to divide themselves between the producers (working class) and the consumers (those who can afford extravagances regularly). In that sense the two classes were designed to support each other by their industry and idleness respectively.

There are even various English building projects scattered around the country that are called 'follies' because they were essentially built on a noble's whim, but I'm sure they entertained people as well as generated business. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folly#Follies_in_18th_Century_French_and_English_Gardens)

Great question and points of view!!

Even with all her match-making, Emma has trepidations about falling in love with Frank. :)

In Mrs. Elton, has Emma met her match in “pushiness”. Though, Mrs. E is the polar opposite of Emma.

“SusieQ wrote: In 1816, high society people life seemingly had nothing but time at hand. The book contains endless paragraphs of cackle:”

I have to agree, their conversations are the most boring – worried about poor Jane Fairfax catching a cold because she went to the post office… to leave the windows open or closed during the dance… who has a better handwriting. LOL! I'd like to know what they really talk about behind closed doors. LOL!!!

I feel Mrs. Elton is purposely befriending Jane Fairfax because Emma is close friends with Harriett and knew that Emma was pushing Mr. Elton to marry Harriett. It was mentioned that both the Elton’s were not nice to Harriett upon their arrival.

The coming attractions showed a ball, in the book I thought it never happened, or am I wrong?

For those who have a digital converter box, Part 1 airs tonight @ 10 pm on 28.2

I'm sure it will be the same for each Sat nite!

So.... everything works out in the end doesn't it! :)

Admins: Are we to read Northanger Abbey for next Friday? Are we still doing this? :)

I saw the advert on PBS and wonder how do you know what the next book is? Does an email get sent or do you need to check on the website?

More Jane Austen?? Do you read contemporary literature too?

Since this is March 15th, what is the current book KCET book club is reading?