A New View on Jane Austen's Emma
It’s a question well worthy of the best pub quiz - what’s the connection between Jane Austen’s Emma and Game of Thrones?
What the mistress of subtlety and the master of mayhem share, is the fundamental style they used to write their masterpieces!
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Illustration by C. E. Brock, 1909
While Emma is a “comedy of manners”, the book of the HBO blockbuster is most decidedly not.
What the mistress of subtlety and the master of mayhem do share, however, is the fundamental style they used to write their masterpieces.
Emma was the first use in English fiction of the free indirect style of writing and if Austen pioneered the technique then Martin is certainly the most popular contemporary practitioner of it.
Both stories are narrated in the third person and limited to being told through the eyes of a point-of-view character.
By this method, the characters themselves become the narrators, pushing along the plot with their own unique points of view.
Austen used it in Emma to convey authority, perhaps, or ridicule.
Martin, as Lev Grossman, of Time magazine notes, harnesses the technique to allow readers to "experience the struggle for Westeros from all sides at once” so that "every fight is both triumph and tragedy…and everybody is both hero and villain at the same time.”
Irish author James Joyce also used free indirect speech in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses and Virginia Woolf helped readers into the minds of her characters using it in To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway.
With this essay veering dangerously towards English Literature 101, it’s perhaps a good time to announce NoteStream’s new, upcoming serialized classic.
Our weekly installments of Pride and Prejudice became the most read in the long form reading app’s history. The only negative feedback we received, if you can call it that, was readers complaining they had to wait a little too long for their next Austen “fix.”
To rectify that, we will be publishing new episodes of the three-volume classic every day until Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley are finally hitched with the prospect of “perfect happiness.”
For the uninitiated, the philosophy behind NoteStream is to encourage and enable people to read longer articles - and books - on an app using the latest cutting edge technology and design to make the process as pleasurable as cuddling up with a good, old-fashioned paper book.
There is something safe and secure about reading Austen, whatever the vehicle, and that remains every bit as true now as it did when the novel was first published in 1816.
It comes about partly through familiarity, Austen’s characters have become part of the fabric of our lives, and by the sheer brilliance of her writing.
Winter is Coming
And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that we can read on safe in the knowledge that she won’t be killing off all her main characters in a blaze of bloodshed by the end of the first volume!