Reading is a central theme of both Emma (1815) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), two of Jane Austen’s most celebrated novels. The characters are constantly reading books, comparing the sizes of their libraries, and endeavoring to respond to tricky situations based on their readings of them. Mr. Darcy claims that a lady’s education is not complete until she adds to all the usual accomplishments something “more substantial”: the “improvement of her mind by extensive reading” (27). Though reading is regarded as a source of knowledge and even wisdom, these novels are what Bonaparte calls “a map of misreading” (142). Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse are similar not only in their charming personalities, but more so in their propensity to misread texts, situations, and themselves. But rather than ending in disaster, these errors in judgement push the plot forward and create learning opportunities for the characters.
Rice, Leah, "The Importance of Reading in Jane Austen's Novels" (2023). Student Works. 5.