BBC Emma Episode 4 and Pride and Prejudice Question 26

Well, the new BBC interpretation of Emma is over. Just when I was really getting into it! As I don't want to introduce any spoilers (as if everyone doesn't know what happened!) I won't talk about it in any detail except that I found it very satisfying. Jonny Lee Miller could never rival Mr Darcy for romance, but he plays his role as Mr Knightley admirably. Certainly this is the most romantic production of Emma I've seen. I really loved the way Garai's Emma developed gradually from a really naive, overconfident young woman into a responsible adult who recognizes that people's lives are not to be trifled with, and realizes the very serious consequences of doing so.

I can't help marvelling at the versatility of Sandy Welch, who can move from the dark grit of Gaskell's North and South and the intensity of Jane Eyre to produce a light and airy piece like Emma.

My overall evaluation: Too slow at the beginning (personally, I'd cut the first 20 minutes), and perhaps too rushed at the end, but a very memorable production and one that I know I'll be watching a few times! I learned a lot about Emma from it. This is a very cheerful and heart-warming interpretation, not for the stricter Jane Austen purists, perhaps, but nevertheless a very original and insightful approach.

Pride and Prejudice Question 26

Speaking about romance: It’s been said of Jane Austen: “she refuses to romanticize romance”. What do you think of this statement? What does it mean? Do you agree with this perspective?


  1. Absolutely! It's not that her love-stories are devoid of feeling - but that they're not obvious or destructive or obsessive or society-defying or teeming with throbbing passion blah blah. When Elizabeth happens across Darcy again, he's not a broken man, brooding over his wrongs, wandering about the moors or beating his head against a tree. He's having some friends over.

    And Austen's characters don't fall in love because some instant connection in their souls; they discover each other's (and their own) true selves through reflection and analysis and observation and such, and fall in love with what they find.

  2. I was discussing this with my sister-in-law yesterday about some of the spin-offs, inspired, etc. The problem I usually have with the ones I don't enjoy, is there's too much, they go too far. The word "drama" came up quite frequently in that conversation. To tie it in with this line we could say they try to over-romaticize Austen's work. While that's not necessarily a bad thing in a book, it usually makes Austen fans feel that they went too far from the book and characters we know and love.

    Austen's characters aren't perfect, and as Elizabeth B said there's nothing over the top or that instant moment where... that the readers can't follow and usually cuts us off and leaves us wondering. Everything just feels more true to life and relatable with Austen's works.

    Let's just take a look at Northanger Abbey, shall we? ;)

  3. Great review of Emma - I can't wait to get a chance to watch it myself!

    I agree that Austen does not romanticize romance. Austen's main characters are not cookie cutter heroes and heroines. They have flaws that they must work through in order to achieve happiness. They are more relatable and two hundred years ago they would have been our friends and neighbors.

    Although I do enjoy a good romance, most have too perfect heroes and heroines that live the type of life that is not typical of myself or my friends.

  4. Jane Austen had a very practical approach to love and marriage. kt mentions Northanger Abbey, and I think this book shows how much she disdained the "romantic" notions that filled Miss Morland's head. Elizabeth Bennet may have held out for love, but even she wasn't too sure that she would ever find such a match. Everyone who married well in Austen's works, married for "non-romantic" reasons (contrast the Miss Dashwoods). Austen also speaks about doing the honorable thing: Captain Wentworth would have married Louisa if he had led her to believe their was an attachment, even though he did not love her.

    I think Austen saw the best marriages were based on mutual respect and common ideals as well as love. Her romances were not very "romantic" and yet they are deep and true. I think that is what makes her books able to stand the test of time.

  5. Monica, I'm THISCLOSE to starting up a vertical cross-country move, so I may not be back until after the contest is over. If I can sneak in a moment or two, I'll try. But just in case I can't, let me just say thanks. This has been very fun--like a virtual book club!

    Anyway, I think even though her characters fall in love, there's something incredibly appropriate about their choices in the end. In all of Austen's HEA couples that I can think of, the finances work out, their social classes are close enough to not ruin one or the other, they're both decent, honorable people, and they genuinely like each other. The matches are full of sense as well as sensibility. And when someone does get carried away by feelings, things never go well--look at Marianne and Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility or Lydia with Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. Or even Edward Ferrers and his presumably too-quick engagement to Lucy Steele. And, like KT said, we can't forget how much she skewers the overt emotion of the gothic in Northanger Abbey.


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