I am finally reading my first Jane Austen novel. I know. I know. Shame. Shame. I have thoroughly enjoyed her stories when I saw the movies Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I also liked the PBS Special that featured her works such as Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. She has a real knack for telling stories that deeply touch the heartstrings.
So, at last, some 200 years after it was written, I have just started reading Emma. If I had to make a prediction, as younger students are taught to do, I would venture to say that Emma’s know-it-all character is likely to cause trouble for her associates and maybe for her, as well.
It is keeping my attention because I am amazed at busybodies who get very caught up in the daily operations of other people’s lives. They are often entertained by spewing information that they think is factual and when they truly take a look, their own affairs have slipped into shambles. Important dates and deadlines have scooted by while their heads were turned in the wrong direction.
Years ago, the term meddling was more readily used when referring to those who expend large amounts of time and energy dipping into the affairs of others. My mother laughed and referred to these escapades as those who run interference as in the game of football.
Sometimes I read Emma on Kindle and at other times, I switch over to the actual book from the library. Regardless of the medium that I use, I am savoring every word as I learn the plot and study Jane Austen’s writing style. Already, young Harriet has fallen into Emma’s clutches and is listening to her opinions about Harriet’s love interests.
The plot reminds me of a beloved children’s book called Petunia by Roger Duvoisin. Petunia is a goose that lives on a farm. She has found a book and starts walking around looking studious with the book tucked under her wing. Her new strut makes others think that she has some new knowledge and has become wise.
They begin to ask her for advice and she gives it freely. It causes all types of mishaps for the farm animals and eventually, even for Petunia, herself. She has an accident and when she drops the book, she is surprised to see that it has words in it. She later learns that wisdom actually comes from reading the words of the book. Cute lesson!
Whether one is called a busybody or a meddler, their actions usually do not turn out well. I suspect Emma will cause trouble for those who see her as a sage and it will probably backfire in some way. There are many sayings that warn us when we deal with these types or take them seriously.
We hear things like, ‘Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing’ or ‘Be careful who you trust’ or ‘Don’t meddle in others’ affairs.’ The lyrics of one song say it best. It says, “Sweep around your own front door, before you sweep around mine.”
October 9, 2015