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When I first opened the novel, I realised that the book was split into three volumes, which comprised of eighteen chapters apiece. I wondered how long it would take me to get through the read. As it worked out, the organisation of the novel, and the clarity of the language makes the novel a very legible read, and one can flow through the chapters in each of the volumes with much ease. It could take less than three to four days to complete one volume, in nine by nine chapters, with active concentration.
Volume one makes for a very interesting read, as we're already introduced to Harriet and Emma's relationship, within only a few chapters in. We see that Emma's designs to interfere in Harriet's relationships is centred on her presumption that it was she who matchmade Miss Taylor's matrimony to Mr Weston. Emma wants to matchmake Harriet with Mr Elton, not Mr Martin, of Harriet's own choice. She tries to put Harriet off Mr Martin by calling him 'a gross, and vulgar farmer.' Her input breaks up Harriet's relationship with Mr Martin, and we find ourselves sympathising with Harriet, but not with Emma. Our opinion of her schemes makes readers feel critical of Emma for interfering.
In volume two, we continue to be critical of Emma. On first read, volume two can get extremely tedious, because the themes run on, and have a lot less in common with volume one. It gets particularly tedious when Austen devotes pages of the novel to Miss Bate's blabbing on and on. The themes eventually begin to link in volume three. We get a better understanding of volume two, and we can see there is something more conclusive. We continue to feel cold towards Emma throughout volume two, including because of her prejudices towards Miss Jane Fairfax, whom we find ourselves liking, and is through the novel a lot nicer, and more consistent than Emma. Emma forms false assumptions about Jane Fairfax, when she assumes there is more to her relationship with Mr Dixon than meets the eye. Mr Dixon is married to Miss Campbell, who is Jane's best friend. Jane would never do that to Miss Campbell, and Emma's presumptions are wrong. We don't like Emma, she misleads us.
By volume three, our understanding of Emma gradually grows warmer. Her feelings begin to change. She begins to realize the truth. Her understanding of Mr Frank Chruchill, and Mr George Knightley begins to change. She finds herself going to balls, and centred into some flirtation between these two men. By the end of the novel she discovers Frank Churchill has been secretly wed to Jane Fairfax. We are also surprised to see that Emma's marital status also concludes with a wedding to George Knightley, although Mr Woodhouse, Emma's father, is against this union of the two, believing that Emma has vowed never to get married to anyone, so that she can continue looking after him, and not leave.
Sometimes in Austen, it seems like if the story had continued into another volume, things might not have been happily ever after between Emma and George Knighley afterall, or between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. Divorce might have been a theme that could have gone on in Emma, if the plot had extended into a volume four, because I was quite convinced that Frank Churchill had intimate feelings for Emma. In the same way I felt Knightley felt for Fairfax. However, because of the cosy-close ending of the novel, we shall never know.
Overall, with a little patience, the novel is a very good read, especially, if readers can get through the tedious themes of volume two, and into the merits, and warmer themes of volume three.