Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith: Dynamic Duo?

Mr. Jarrett turned to me the other night while we were (re)watching the 2020 screen adaption of Emma and announced it is now his favorite film. I admit to being astonished considering his previous favorite film until that moment had been the Matrix, but it has been dethroned to second place.

But Emma is a wonderful film, and we have watched many times. The film was one of my research tools into Regency era shops when I wrote Caroline Save the Blacksmith and was hunting for shop interiors.

The producers hired consultants who guided the costumes, etiquette and even the movement of the cast to be true to the time. The performances, the music, the sets, the dialogue, the costumes ... there is a lot to like.

Jane Austen's Emma is a wonderful and complex story. The dynamic between Emma Woodhouse and Harriet Smith serves as a crucial element of character development and thematic exploration. Emma, wealthy and self-assured, contrasts sharply with the naive and impressionable Harriet. This relationship highlights themes of influence, social class, and self-awareness.

Emma, described as "handsome, clever, and rich," enjoys the comfort of high social status and indulges in matchmaking. Her flaws—pride and a tendency to meddle—are evident in her efforts to mold Harriet into a more socially refined individual. Harriet, of uncertain parentage and lower social standing, is eager to please Emma, making her a malleable participant in Emma's social experiments.

The power imbalance is clear from the start. Emma persuades Harriet to reject a proposal from Robert Martin, a respectable farmer, believing Harriet can secure a more advantageous match. This decision, driven by Emma’s snobbery and misguided sense of Harriet's prospects, sets the tone for their relationship. Harriet's subsequent infatuation with Mr. Elton, orchestrated by Emma, ends in disaster when Mr. Elton proposes to Emma instead, highlighting Emma's flawed judgment.

Key events prompt self-awareness and growth. Emma realizes the harm her interference has caused, leading to genuine remorse and a more equitable relationship with Harriet. Harriet, in turn, gains confidence, ultimately making her own decisions, including her engagement to Robert Martin.

Through their evolving dynamic, Austen critiques societal norms and underscores the importance of personal growth. Emma and Harriet's relationship reflects broader themes of class and friendship, showcasing Austen’s enduring insight into human nature.

Speaking of characters having a huge impact on each other, next month sees the arrival of the newest Inconvenient Bride. The worlds of Miss Audrey Gideon and Lord Julius Trafford collide in a dramatic explosion when he engages in a rather foolish activity in a bid to solve the baron's murder.

Discover the truth about the daring but difficult lord, and the woman who might be the key to taming him, in Lord Trafford's Folly in less than four weeks!


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