Jane Austen's Emma (1816) tells the story of the coming of age of Emma Woodhouse, "handsome, clever, and rich," who "had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Typical for the novel's time, Emma's transition to womanhood is accomplished through courtship?both of those around her and, ultimately, her own. As in other Austen works, education and courtship go hand in hand, and Emma's process of learning to relinquish the power of having her own way is also a process of falling in love. However, in Emma this classic plot is both complicated by and reflective of a collection of contemporary issues, assumptions, and anxieties that highlight just how "political" even the most conventional of courtship plots can be.
This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and an extensive collection of historical documents relating to the composition and reception of the novel, the social implications of England's shift from a rural agrarian to an urban industrial economy, the role of women in provincial society, and the contemporary preoccupation with health and the treatment of illness.