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|Pictures of perfection vs realism.
Written by Rachel G
(4/16/2008 9:30 a.m.)
JA said in one of her letters "Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked", and I am very much inclined to agree with her. For me one of the great charms of her work is her realism. She dishes up her characters warts and all, full of human flaws and foibles. Some are caricatures of course, but again and again she delineates character in such a way that the reader experiences a flash of recognition - "I know someone like that", or "Oh dear, I do that too". JA makes me know that things were different then, but people were just the same.
I think that in Emma JA does this realism with particular subtlety. Thus far at least, we have no real villains, just very human mixtures of good good and bad qualities. Emma's manipulations of Harriet and her snobbery combine with her good humour, her patience with her father, and her capacity for recognising when she has erred. Mr Woodhouse has everyone's best interests at heart, but by his gentle despotism contrives to have everything arranged exactly as he wishes and places many constraints on Emma. Miss Bates has not an ounce of malice in her and is deserving of atttention and assistance, but at the same time is same time is jaw-grindingly tedious to be with. It's all just like life, really.
So far the only character whom I find somewhat worrying is Mr knightley - he's just so darned perfect. Always right, always doing the right thing, generous, highly intelligent but voluntarily spends time with Miss Bates and Mr Woodhouse who's company he cannot genuinely find stimulating. He even seems to be good company and larks around with his small nephews and nieces. Is there nothing wrong with him? The man must have some faults. If he does not then he is not human, and I shall soon be obliged to find him quite intolerable! ;D
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