Emma

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"With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every body's feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every body's destiny. She was proved to have been universally mistaken; and she had not quite done nothing — for she had done mischief."

Written in 1815, Emma is a novel that takes a slightly different take on Jane Austen's typical romantic novel, particularly in the fact that the heroine herself is a Rich Bitch.

Emma Woodhouse, who has been spoiled ever since she was a small child, had always had a penchant for ordering the world as she sees fit. So when she meets the sweet and pretty but slightly slow young Harriet, she decides that she will set up Harriet with a husband worthy of her feminine charms. Hilarity Ensues, with zany schemes, terrible misunderstandings, gossip gone awry and, of course, since this is a Jane Austen novel, Emma needing to realize that her oldest friend, Mr. Knightley, is actually the man that she loves. But will she realize it in time, or will she lose him to another woman?

Notably adapted as the film Clueless and, in the current trend of Literary Mash-Ups, as Emma and the Werewolves. There are also several straight adaptations worth watching. A musical with songs by Paul Gordon was also produced in the last 2000s. Marvel Illustrated produced a Comic Book Adaptation in 2011, script by Nancy Butler, art and covers by Janet Lee (Return of the Dapper Men).

Not to be confused with the manga Victorian Romance Emma.


These tropes find their match in the novel:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • An Aesop: Shipping is evil; don't do it.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Mr. Knightley and Emma.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Emma. She is a very endearing character - open, sweet, generous, witty, energetic, a loyal friend and a devoted daughter; but she is also what by modern standards might fairly be called a snob.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: After showing them to Emma, Harriet Smith throws her (pretty pathetic) mementos of Mr Elton into a fire.
  • Bumbling Dad: Emma's father.
  • Cassandra Truth: Miss Bates has a tendency to provide valuable insight into what characters in the story are thinking, but most people don't care or notice because she rambles on and on and on. Even the readers usually ignore what she says.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Emma and Mr. Knightley.
  • The Comically Serious: Mr. Knightley, practically the only one to point out any of Emma's faults.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Knightley, his brother John, and Emma.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: And this purpose becomes shipping, among other things.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Sisters Isabella and Emma Woodhouse to brothers John and George Knightley.
  • Doting Parent: Mr. Woodhouse adores his daughters, and is vastly troubled by the idea that anyone would think Emma less than perfect. Isabella is also shown to be this to her five children, and Miss Bates is a doting aunt to Jane Fairfax. Also, Mrs. Weston (formerly Miss Taylor) is Emma's childhood governess, and not much less inclined than Mr. Woodhouse to think her anything but flawless.
  • Generation Xerox: In personality, at least, the narrative indicates that Isabella is exactly like the girls' father and Emma is just like their mother. (No hint is given as to how much of a physical resemblance there is.)
  • The Ghost: We read a lot about a few characters we never get to meet, most particularly Frank's aunt and uncle and Mrs. Elton's sister and brother-in-law.
  • Gold Digger: Mr. Elton.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Mrs. Elton, who uses what was then a tired old Italian catchphrase to refer to her husband. She even gets the phrase wrong, showing her to be not just small-minded and behind the times but also badly educated.
    • Though the mispronunciation of the Italian phrase may be a mistake on the publisher's part rather than the character's. The argument is that Mr. Elton would have corrected his wife at the first opportunity after her misusing the phrase and that she would have been too embarrassed to use the correct pronunciation.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Spurs Emma's Love Epiphany.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: When Emma actually attempts to be friendly to Jane Fairfax, she finds herself soundly rebuffed, and honestly doesn't know why. It turns out that Jane, who was secretly engaged to Frank Churchill all along, was deeply jealous of the attention he was paying to Emma as part of the coverup. Jane later acknowledges that she was unreasonable about it, given that Emma had no idea. Meanwhile, Mr. Knightley takes a severe dislike to Frank Churchill for similar reasons.
    • When Harriet confides to Emma that she is in love with Mr. Knightley, it causes Emma realize her own feelings for him.
  • Hair of Gold: Harriet, along with big Blue Eyes.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Sure, every Jane Austen novel has characters engaging in "intercourse," but the scene everyone remembers is Mr. Elton "making violent love" to Emma in a carriage.
  • Hazel Eyes: The fact that Emma has these is mentioned frequently. "The true hazel eye," Mrs. Weston calls it.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Mrs. Elton says she much prefers old-fashioned politeness to "modern ease," even though her own manners go far beyond ease and well into over-familiarity.
  • I Have This Friend: Mr. Elton shows Emma a poem that he claims a friend of his wrote for a girl he was in love with. Emma isn't fooled (at least not about who really wrote it, although she is wrong about who it was written for).
  • Ill Girl: Jane Fairfax's health is not robust. Word of God says that she died of tuberculosis a few years after the end of the book.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Emma towards Mr. Knightley
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For all her faults, Emma has more than once shown kindness and sympathy to people under her on the social tree, as well as feeling guilty for her mistreatment of Miss Bates.
    • The biggest proof is her routine visits with the poor, giving not just food/money but time and attention to them, trying to entertain the children, etc.
    • She also deserves credit for being so patient and considerate to her father. He's a good person, but he can, inadvertedly, be very trying.
    • John Knightley is this, too. He can be snarky and short-tempered with Mr. Woodhouse, but well, Mr Woodhouse IS annoying and John's very obvious love for his family (and his big-brotherly care of Emma) makes up for a lot.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone, pretty much, but particularly Mr. Knightley to Emma she even says that after they get married, she won't ever be able to call him anything but Mr. Knightley.
  • Like Brother and Sister: You can actually hear Mr. Knightley's heart break when Emma says this as they're about to dance.
    • More accurately, what she says is that they're not close enough to being brother and sister to make it improper for them to dance, and he agrees wholeheartedly. The heartache is still easy to catch, though, if you look for it.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Emma ships Harriet and Mr. Elton, even though Mr. Elton wants her and there is mutual attraction between Harriet and Robert Martin. Mr. Elton ends up marrying Augusta Hawkins. Emma finds herself attracted to Frank Churchill, even though he is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax, and she is totally oblivious of the fact that Mr. Knightley is in love with her but painfully aware that Harriet is in love with Mr. Knightley, despite earlier thinking Harriet was in love with Frank Churchill. Mrs. Weston, Mr. Cole, and others also suspect something between Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax, while Emma suspects something between Jane Fairfax and her foster sister's current husband, Mr. Dixon. Nothing gets a Love Dodecahedron going like the out-of-control imaginations of shippers matchmakers.
  • Love Epiphany: Emma has one as the trigger of her quest to become a better person.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Love riddle lunacy.
  • Love You and Everybody: Not romantically, but Mr. Weston has so many "close friends" that being his "close friend" doesn't seem to mean much, as Emma realizes with some annoyance.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Emma. Seriously, derailing a relationship by filling the poor girl's head with distractions because Emma doesn't like the man?
  • Massive-Numbered Siblings: John and Isabella's five children
  • The Matchmaker: Emma obviously, though her only known success story is the Westons. Mrs. Weston also tries her hand with no more success.
  • Matchmaker Crush: The result of Emma's matchmaking of Mr. Elton and Harriet is Mr. Elton falling for Emma.
  • May-December Romance: Mr. Knightley is 16 years older than Emma.
  • Meaningful Name: Well, he's not called Mr. Knightley for nothing.
  • The Minnesota Fats: Jane, to Emma.
  • Missing Mom: Mrs. Woodhouse died when Emma was very little.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Emma, close to the end of the book, realises she was basically wrong about everything and other people had paid for it (see page quote). Moreover, her Green-Eyed Epiphany is stimulated by a girl whom she has encouraged in the first place, making this a "Oh God! that I had never seen her" case.
  • Mystery Literature: Several readers, including BBC producer Sue Birtwistle and mystery novelist P. D. James, have argued that Emma is one of the first of these to exist, given the way Austen plants clues about relationships and plot resolution all throughout.
  • No Antagonist
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: The hottest scene in the book occurs when Mr. Knightley almost kisses Emma's hand.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Surprisingly, Emma. We are not three chapters into the story until we are told how she assists the poor, manages her Big Fancy House (since she was twelve), supports her hypochondriac father and sends provisions/pays visits to her less well-off neighbors. Mr. Knightley fits the trope as well.
  • Oblivious to Love: Emma is oblivious to Mr. Knightley's feelings for her and her own feelings for him until (she believes) it might be too late.
  • Odd Friendship: Emma and Harriet.
  • Only Sane Man: Mr. Knightley.
  • Playing Cyrano: Emma. It's also implied that Mr. Knightley is trying to do the same for Robert Martin.
  • Playing Sick: Many characters presume that Frank's aunt is doing this to keep him at home as much as possible. Of course, then she dies...
    • Also Emma's father. It's hinted that the majority of the neighborhood thinks he's a hypochondriac, but he's so kind-hearted and generous that they humor him. Word of God says that he died two years after Emma married Mr. Knightley.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Especially in the riddle poem fiasco. Also, Emma misunderstands Harriet's feelings when she talks about the man she is in love with (see Rescue Romance).
  • Recycled in Space: Emma and the Werewolves -- The madness knows no end!
  • Rescue Romance: Emma believes Harriet has fallen for Frank Churchill after he had rescued her from the gypsies, but instead she falls for Mr. Knightley after he "rescues" her by asking her to dance when she is snubbed by Mr. Elton.
  • Rich Bitch: The main character, sort of; some actresses play her as being as much, or more, of a Spoiled Sweet type (see the Jerk with a Heart of Gold entry above). And then there's Mrs. Elton, who ratchets the trope right Up to Eleven.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job
  • Secret Relationship: Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax are engaged the entire time, and nobody knows about it until his aunt dies.
  • Serious Business: Matchmaking is serious business. But you should know this already.
  • Shipper on Deck: Emma -- first for Captain Weston and Miss Taylor, then for Harriet and Mr. Elton, then for Harriet and Frank. Only the first one works out.
  • Walls of Text: A lot of Miss Bates' dialogue.
  • What Beautiful Blue Eyes: Harriet
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mr. Knightley to Emma, especially after her manipulation of Harriet and her rudeness to Miss Bates.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Subtly done with Emma. She encourages Harriet in her reading of The Romance of the Forest, a Gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe which stars a girl of obscure origins who is ultimately revealed to be Nobly Born. Emma clearly thinks Harriet belongs in a similar story, when in actuality Harriet is the bastard of a tradesman, who leaves her quite comfortably off economically but does nothing to raise her social status.