Emma by Jane Austen Read-along: Volume 2


Tom pointed out earlier this week that Emma could be considered a mystery; it is in fact, termed as such by people who ought to know.

Indeed there are mysteries in Volume 2, such as who gave Jane Fairfax the piano-forte? Will Emma ever tire of trying to form romantic matches? Is Frank Churchill as wonderful as everyone seems to think he is, and even more, does Emma love him?

This hilarious passage made me smile:

This sensation of listlessness, weariness, stupidity, this disinclination to sit down and enjoy myself, this feeling of every thing being dull and insipid about the house! – I must be in love; I should be the oddest creature in the world if I were not – for a few weeks at least.

But, here’s another question: aren’t these just the mark of a good writer, posing doubts and curiosities about her characters that we’re dying to solve as we read on?

I am only just finished with Volume 2, and that for the first time. I am no expert in Jane Austen by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do read on wondering as to the mystery that is contained within Emma. As yet, it doesn’t seem very profound.

29 thoughts on “Emma by Jane Austen Read-along: Volume 2”

    1. I, too, look forward to the full disclosure of an ending. Yes, I can see Emma’s naive, self-deceptive ways already, and I hope she will grow past them without too much suffering.


  1. Love the point about the mystery! One of the categories for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year is “detective novel.” I wonder if Emma would count. 🙂


    1. Personally, I can’t bring myself to define Emma as a mystery quite yet. We shall see when I finish the novel. As for a choice to fulfill the Back to Classics Challenge, I would pick The Moonstone by Wilke Collins.


        1. Self-conscious, yes, that is just what P.D. James and I mean. She wants to solve the mystery of Jane Fairfax’s love affair, who sent the piano, that sort of thing. Is the pastor in love with Harriet, what are the clues? Romantic detective work.


  2. I have been following along with the Librivox audio book recordings
    Yes, I know it`s ” cheating “, but it`s the only way I can do it at this busy time of year.


    1. I don’t think listening to the audio is “cheating”. I think it’s a wonderful way to be involved in an incredibly busy month. And, I think that hearing the characters speak in an English accent, as Audrey of Books as Food is doing, is all the more interesting. Do you like it so far?


  3. Oh, I can see one colossal mystery in Emma: who is really in love with whom? And as for its being a detective novel, Emma seems to think she’s a wonderful sleuth! I think that’s a large part of the joy of reading about her…and why I hope she never changes. 🙂


    1. Yes, yes, who is in love with whom seems to be the overarching theme of the novel. But, I don’t see Emma as a sleuth as much as a snoop or well-intentioned friend. Her ignorance, perhaps attributive to youth, reminds me of Briony in Atonement. I haven’t quite yet finished the novel, almost, but I am still undecided as to if I like Emma or not. If I had to choose any character for a friend, it would have to be Jane. Or, certainly Mr. Knightly.


      1. But Jane is so reserved! At least that’s Emma’s assessment. She knows Jane is “good” and would be the more appropriate friend for her. Of course, when we get to the end we know why Jane is so reserved (though I suspect it’s in her nature as well.) Mr Knightley is many people’s favourite.

        It’s a very clever novel – the more you read it, the more you see how so very clever Austen is, and how every little thing that happens leads to a very neatly tied up plot. It’s truly delicious. On my most recent reading though I felt that a main theme was friendship. It starts with Emma losing her friend (and past governess) to marriage and ends with a line about a band of true friends (if I’m remembering correctly).

        Have you read Vol 3 yet?


  4. If I could choose a character for a friend, it would be the narrator.

    The detective story was invisible to me when I first read the novel, so I am happy that you cannot see it. It is really a matter of the narrative devices employed by Austen. That’s the difference from novels in general. Detective novels typically employ a certain range of devices to tell their stories; Emma uses a surprising number of those devices, give that the detective novel did not even exist.

    The profundity – this is an interesting question that applies to almost every Bildungsroman. A character is less mature, has some experiences, and becomes more mature. A universal experience, but perhaps almost too universal. Yet fiction writers cannot stop telling versions of this story.


    1. I am glad that you pointed out the detective story inherent to Emma; surely I agree that her narrative is masterful. Cunning and clever and in many places misleading, surely deliberately. Quite possibly I will reread it some day, and the narrative devices will jump out all the more.

      I will need to think about the profundity of the story as I absorb it after this first time through. As yet, I am not as deeply moved as I am by the novels you may scorn (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, love those desperate and foolish women).


        1. Phew! I never am certain of what you like and don’t, but I should remember that we almost always like the same books. Some of my favorite read-alongs have been with you: Little, Big…Little Women…Great Expectations and now Emma. Thanks for enriching my reading life.

          (Now I want to pick up Anna Karenina for the fourth time.)


  5. I would never have thought to pair the word mystery with Emma. The two don’t seem to fit. I can see how the “giver” of the pianoforte could be deemed mysterious as no one seems to know who gave it Jane. However, it does seem pretty obvious it was Churchill – or so I’m guessing. Especially when Knightly made the point to Emma that whoever gave Jane the pianoforte wasn’t a considerate person, seeing as they didn’t think about the inconvenience of such an instrument. We all know that Churchill doesn’t seem to think much of inconveniences of anything else – leaving to London for a haircut (or to purchase a pianoforte is my guess). I find him rather annoying and am hoping that Emma soon grows tired of him and his falsehoods. I’m in the middle of this volume, so I’m eager to see what happens next. I did love how quick Emma was to knock down Mrs. Weston’s idea that Knightley was interested in Jane. Hmmm…me thinks that someone is jealous.


  6. I’m so glad I happened upon your readalong announcement in time to join in! Thank you for hosting!
    I’m into Vol. 3 now, and have just posted a bit about Vol. 2. I feel like I could go on and on talking about the story and the humor and the narrative perspective, but I just want to get back to reading! I’ve read the book before, but I think all readers are meant to get some idea of the truth behind what Emma thinks she sees/knows. As readers, we know more than Emma, although the narrative ostensibly is from her perspective. We never are privy to scenes that she’s not privy to, but we are meant to read between the lines.
    The more I think about it, the more I realize how hard this style of narrative must be to write! Possibly the richness of the text is why the book is a classic, huh?
    Here’s the link to my Vol. 2 post: http://baystatera.com/emma-readalong-vol-2-bellezzamjs-emma200th/
    P.S. I do not think the book should be considered a mystery. (As a librarian, I can’t imagine giving Emma to a mystery reader and trying to pass it off as a mystery!)


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