Emma - Jane Austen, Fiona Stafford Jane Austen seems to be a rather divisive figure as of late. You love her for her wit, her irony, her gentle but pointed depictions of manners and love. Or you hate her because she seems to be harking back to an age of prescribed gender roles and stultifying drawing room conversation. I am of the former camp.

Emma may be one of her more divisive novels and the title character one of her more controversial creations. Or perhaps that should be – one of her more irritating creations. She exasperates readers: people are annoyed by her as they are annoyed by people like Emma in real life. She is a snob, she is a busybody, she is high-handed and she puts her great intellect in service of manipulating the people around her; and all through this, she is utterly convinced of her strong ideals and her noble aims. But this is exactly why I love her. I don’t yearn for perfection in heroes and heroines. I like them real, imperfect, deluded, flawed.

It is important to recognize that Austen somewhat stacks the deck by surrounding her heroine with a loveable (and sometimes not so loveable) gallery of soft-headed nitwits and ne’er-do-wells. How can a person of such superior intellect, such depth of spirit, do else but try to improve their lot? She is only trying to be of service to them, to all of the imperfect humans who cross her path! I can’t help but empathize with her clearly Virgoan tendencies to reform and to improve – and to serve, in her own way.

When reading about Emma’s zany hijinks, part of me stood back in awe at her ability to fool herself so utterly. And another part of me wanted to kiss those foolish, snobby little comments off of her no-doubt lovely face. But yet I don’t think I have a crush on Emma, it is more of a brotherly feeling. She’s like the ideal bossy older sister – frustrating, annoying, convinced of her superiority - yet kind beyond measure, golden of heart. Wonderfully flawed.