Emma: A Surprisingly Modern Marriage

emma images via mollands.netBesides Pride and Prejudice,  Emma is perhaps Jane Austen’s most beloved novel and definitely her most humorous. Emma herself, despite being labeled a “heroine that no one would like but myself (Austen),” is actually rather endearing as she bumbles through acting as matchmaker for the small, country town of Highbury.

Austen usually takes quite the heat for her seemingly old-fashioned “girls only” novels about quiet, domestic life of the nineteenth century and romantic tales of “good girls win.” Emma especially, as the daughter of a wealthy gentleman with little to do but parade around Highbury trying to marry off her less-well-to-do neighbors couldn’t seem much further from a modern woman. Yet, out of all of Austen’s heroines, Emma is the most modern, the most forward-thinking, and the most independent–a fact that perhaps caused Austen to say that Emma would be a “heroine that no one would like but myself” for Emma, like Austen herself, was indeed well ahead of her time.

So how is Emma so modern? Think about it, she’s the only one of Austen’s heroine’s who isn’t obsessed about getting married. Of course, she wants everyone else to marry, and she at times (falsely) believes she is in love for rather ridiculous reasons, but, for the majority of the novel, Emma has no interest in tying the knot herself.

The most incomprehensible thing in the world to a man, is a woman who rejects his offer of marriage

image via mollands.netEmma already has status, wealth, and security–all primary inducements for women of the nineteenth century to scramble to be wed at the first opportunity, and she has no interest in changing her circumstances. Emma could essentially be her own, independent woman and she is very happy being just that. When she finally does marry, it is not for any of those reasons, instead, she marries purely for love when she discovers that her friendship with Mr. Knightley, who isn’t her superior but is in fact her equal in wealth and circumstance, is actually much more than just a friendship. Even after they are married though, Emma doesn’t give up any of her independence. It is Mr. Knightley who moves into her estate so that she can continue to care for her ailing father. Modern? Powerful? Independent? I think so. In the novel, Emma did in fact achieve what modern women seek in their relationships: equality and independence.

A woman is not to marry a man merely because she is asked, or because he is attached to her, and can write a tolerable letter

image via mollands.netYet, though equal in wealth, and retaining her voice within their marriage, Emma’s relationship to her husband couldn’t be further from how how many modern women view equality for Emma and Mr. Knightley’s “equality” wasn’t a competition, it wasn’t a “I can make that much money too” race, and it wasn’t a “who is busier and more important” challenge. It was simply respectful equality: A partnership instead of a battle of the sexes where each understood one another’s different roles without falling into the modern train of thought that different roles = different worths.

Emma entered her marriage with Mr. Knightley not because she found his wealth and status attractive, but because she admired and respected him. he had wisdom, was rational, and had a strong sense of morality. He treated everyone fairly and kindly, whether they were poor, elderly women, or wealthy, independent men. Ten years her senior, Mr. Knightley brought a wisdom and moral compass to their marriage and though he often reprimanded Emma for her naive, romantic ideas, he did not think less of her and she did not lose her sense of worth. While he brought wisdom, Emma brought cheerful optimism and a fervor for life, and together, they created a perfect balance. Emma didn’t lose anything when she married. She was still essentially herself: respected, loved and was loved, had a voice, and, with Mr. Knightley, created a surprisingly modern marriage.

Men of sense, whatever you may choose to say, do not want silly wives

quotes via emma, austen, penguin books / images via

– <3 A. 

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Men of Austen Week: Knightley’s DIY Cigar Tray

diy masculine coffee table tray

George Knightley, the hero of Austen’s most humorous novel, Emma, is the perfect mixture of wisdom, maturity, kindness, and fun-loving cheerfulness. For anyone who said love cannot spring from friendship, look no further than Emma’s relationship with Mr. Knightley and you will see enough evidence to prove otherwise. Knightley is often considered to be Jane’s most obvious spokesperson in her novels, often making social commentary on, and acting as a sort of moral compass for, the small town of Highbury, a village that represents a microcosm of the flaws and failings that Jane saw in the British class system. I decided my DIY Cohiba Cigar tray was a perfect match for Mr. Knightley. He is far more approachable than Darcy, yet not as jolly as Bingley, and I could definitely see him finding some humor in using otherwise unusable, empty cigar boxes in an unexpected, sophisticated, yet fun, way.

DIY cohiba cigar tray

diy masculine coffee table tray

You will need:

  1. Clear resin or apoxy. The amount really depends on the size of your tray, read the bottle to see how much volume the bottles will fill. The tray I used was 16X9 and I needed two, 32 oz. bottles. 
  2. Tray: the style and type is totally up to you. I do recommend getting a tray without handles, otherwise you will have to stop the resin from rising up to the level of the handle-holes and pouring out of them. I didn’t realize this (duh) until I started pouring the resin and I had quite the mess on my hands! **pier one has a lot of online sales for some great trays** If you can’t find one without handles, stuff some styrofoam into the holes while you’re pouring the resin in.
  3. Cohiba, metal cigar boxes. The number of boxes will depend on how big your tray is. I needed six for mine.

diy cohiba coffee table tray

  1. Super-glue the cigar boxes to the bottom of the tray. If you don’t, once you pour the resin in, the boxes will start to float.
  2. Mix clear resin according to the directions and pour over the boxes. **when I poured the resin in, I didn’t anticipate the resin seeping into the empty boxes and I had to go get more resin in order to have enough to completely cover the boxes. Over-estimate a little bit how much resin you’ll need**

And that’s it! Let it dry over-night and you’ll have a tray fit for even the best men of Highbury.

diy coffee table tray

diy coffee table tray

It’s so easy, and it looks so masculine on a coffee table, a table centerpiece, or as a bedside, catch-all tray. Also, the resin makes a very cleanable surface that’s easy to keep clean no matter where, or how, you’re using it. Perhaps if Emma had thought of a Cohiba cigar tray, Mr. Knightley never would have uttered his famous, and painful line, “badly done, Emma!” But then, I guess we’ll never know about that. 

– <3 A.

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Plain Jane

jane austen sketch via mollands.netPlain Jane: “There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do if he chooses, and that is his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.”

-Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley in Emma

Second only to Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley is probably Jane’s most beloved gentleman. And, if her heroines are meant to be a guide for the do’s and don’ts of being a lady, then Mr. Knightley is chock full of wisdom about the do’s and don’ts of being a man.

Plain Jane

jane austen 11-30Plain Jane: “I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon a woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”

-Jane Austen in Persuasion

After I read this quote I began to think of what Jane has to say of the constancy of her heroines. While she doesn’t necessarily say that they are inconstant, Jane’s heroines often are assisted into a greater knowledge of themselves by the men in their lives: Mr. Knightley shows Emma she is selfish in Emma, Captain Wentworth shows that he is willing to forgive Anne Elliot and love her though she first scorned his love because he was of a lower birthright in Persuasion. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon patiently waits for Marianne Dashwood to discover the difference between passion and true love and is there to pick up the pieces when she follows the wrong man. And, Henry Tilney helps Catherine Morland learn that the overblown themes of novels have no place in real life in Northanger Abbey. Tilney is ready to forgive and love Catherine despite her foolishness. Of course, all these men have their own issues that the ladies at times forgive and forget, but while Jane deposed male writers for their mistreatment of the feminine sex, it seems she had a rather wary eye for them too!