Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Emma, by Jane Austen

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Emma is a comedy; it could very well be a tragedy, and its heroine is a hair's breadth away from being immensely unlikeable. I'm convinced that we only enjoy the young woman because we see that she is not selfish in her meddling. She wants only to bring happiness to other people, primarily by pairing them together. If there were a shred of malice or hope of gain in her behavior, she would be utterly despicable.

That doesn't mean she ought to meddle, though. It works well for a story rife with misunderstandings and conjectures rooted in half-truths. Ultimately, I think Emma learns not to meddle in the affairs of other people's happiness; such tinkering never leads to success of its own doing, and it nearly leads to social disaster all around.

Oh, if only more folks would learn not to interfere with the pursuit of happiness.

Giving advice is one thing, even if unasked-for. But dictating the course of life for another capable human being is, in my view, worse than caging a bird; at least the caged bird doesn't have the illusion of a world open with possibilities. Emma got me thinking quite a bit about the meddlesome nature of so many people in this world, particularly those connected to some individuals I know. (Apologies now for the vagueness of the rest of this post. I don't want to single anyone out by name or situation, because I don't know who reads this blog.)

I get that steering another's ship must be awfully tempting, if you think you know best. Especially if you think the ship's captain doesn't know what she's doing. And maybe you really do know best; maybe the ship really would sink if the captain were at the helm.

But that doesn't make commandeering the craft the right thing to do.

I have no deep insights here, no resounding conclusion. Everything further I can think to say on the subject sounds like a cheesy parenting proverb: You are your own person. Only you can discover your own happiness. But corniness doesn't diminish the truth of the sentiment. I just get really sad when I see how certain controlling individuals attempt to dictate the right or best path of another person's life. And I get to feeling incredibly powerless at my inability to free such people from their cages.

It wouldn't be so bad if all meddlesome-type people were as harmless as Emma. Sadly, the world is not a Jane Austen comedy.

1 comment:

  1. No, no it's not. At least it's not like Wuthering Heights. Hated that goddamned book and it's full of nothing but meddling, spiteful, despicable, hateful people.