Reader's Reflective Essay: Emma, Dubliners, Hard Times, The Great Gatsby, The Color Purple

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Emma: Jane Austen

One of the novels that I have read and enjoyed in this module is Jane Austen’s, Emma. I found this novel quite confusing at first, as I was trying to discover if it was romance novel or not, which I am still unsure of.

I found this to be a secular novel, through the author being concerned with the world of human interaction in general. It is set in Highbury in England, and as it being such a high-class location, I noticed that it was the mannerisms of the middle-class citizenship that is the focus. I feel that this setting allows Austen to highlight the roles and expectations of each class in the society. She uses irony to ridicule the upper classes of her time and also paint a vivid picture for how the women of that class led their lives. Austen is putting across the message that it is the people in the community who make the rules.

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The narrator of this novel is in an authoritative position. Despite the fact that Austen narrates their drama with a slight tone of sarcasm I still felt like I connected with the characters and actually cared what happened to them. I believe that there are shared beliefs between the narrator and the reader. Although Emma is in third person, the narrator constantly makes comments about feelings and insights into the characters. For me, I found this quite interesting as it is unusual for an author to alternate between first and third person, in a sense.

I strongly feel that the idea of style is significant upon reading this novel. It seems as though Austen wants to contain a world that is fixed and uses a subtle and complicated style. She seems as though she is someone who is above and beyond the story.

One thing that I did enjoy wile reading this was the anticipation and suspense of romantics in the novel. Toward the end of the novel we (the reader) already know who was engaged to each other, and the fact that the characters at the time did not know, added that little bit of suspense to it. This was one of the points that I picked up on in one of the first lectures straight away.

Hard Times: Charles Dickens

Another novel that I have read over the course of this module is Hard Times, by Charles Dickens. I found this a little hard to read overall in my opinion. As it was written back in 1854, Dickens describes the dull world of Coketown, an industrial city in the north of England, where factories emitted smoke for fun, and ash was spread across the land, depicting it of a bleak black colour. What I found even worse was the dreary occupants in it.

Throughout this novel, I noticed that Dickens likes to differentiate between bad and good people in the story. What I found interesting is that Dickens gives a hurtful end to them, for the most part. He describes the good characters as the workers, the domestics, the vagabonds, the entertainers. He defines the “bad” people as ignoble. Those who make fun out of other, simply to cure their boredom. Those who bully, and who are self-satisfied. One thing that stood out to me throughout my reading of this book is that the so called ‘bad’ people in this book, try so hard to get under the ‘good’ people’s skin’s, and to ruin their happiness.

A lot like the previous book I have read, Emma, this tells the story through the different classes in society, only in this novel it is clearly showing the lower class. For this lower class, they have to deal with daily struggles such as suppression, as well as betrayal from others. Once again, it is seen as a tragic life, with a bitter ending.

I believe that Dickens is creating the idea of realism in this novel. Realism, in the sense that it is the portrayal of life with fidelity. I feel that Dickens uses his writing skills to get down to the characters level, and has empathy for them, as if he is there with them. The narrator throughout has a personality, that gives sarcasm and irony from the writer. I believe that Dickens is trying hard to see the world from both ends, however it is pictured that he has sympathy for the lower class and is affectionate at what they have to endure on a daily basis.

Dubliners: James Joyce

Prior to my reading on Dubliners, by James Joyce, I had the basic knowledge of what these short stories entailed. I have great admiration for James Joyce and I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the short stories as they were so intriguing yet so short, it seemed nearly unfair to me that they were not extended!

I feel as though James Joyce intended to write a chapter of the moral history in Dublin. Throughout many of them we see stories of childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. I also found it exceptional that the stories were written in that order and written in a scrupulous meanness style.

One short story from Dubliners that stood out to me was Araby. Personally, this is my favourite short story from Joyce’s collection because I believe that in just a few pages, the narrator can be seen to change and develop among the story. This can be seen through the emotions of the characters.

We see this story from the point of view of the unnamed narrator. We follow the narrator on their journey to the bizarre, portrayed as an exotic place, yet somewhere close to home. For me, reading this I gathered the idea that it was taking the form of an epic heroes’ quest. I felt like it somewhat could be the same approach as many movie themes, where someone sets out on a journey, and encounters many different obstacles along the way. What I found enticing, was the imagination of the boy, whether he was hallucinating by seeing the girl come to him or not, and her persuasion to go on the journey. However, I admired Joyce’s use of storytelling in this sense, as it kept me wanting to find out more and more. I believe that the conclusion to this journey is quite anti-climactic, as the boy fails to buy the girl what he wants and feels pathetic inside.

I enjoyed reading this as I used it as a contrast to other hero stories that I have read and could compare the endings. Rather than ending triumphantly, it does have the feel of an epic journey, but just from a much more ironic perspective. I feel Joyce uses his literary knowledge to create this epic story into much more. It left me with the question at the end, what the story really reflects about Joyce’s intent of how he views the world and society.

The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald

A thing that I learned in one of my EL101 lectures regarding this book, is the word zeitgeist. This word stuck to me as I don’t think there is a better word to describe the setting of The Great Gatsby. It is the spirit of time, the prevailing mentality of a particular period of time, especially as expressed in art or literature.

The story is set in the roaring 1920s America. I grew a love for the narrator Nick straight away. I’m not sure why to be honest, as he was seen as just living an average life having just come back from fighting the war. However, as we learn more about the characters, we see that there is a recurring theme of living a double life. It can be seen that each character has a different outlook display compared to their inner self. I also saw this book as a love story, and how far people will go for the people they love. I believe it is through the theme of love, that Gatsby announces arguably the most memorable line 'Can't change the past? Why, of course you can” (Fitzgearld, 2004). This, among many other lines throughout the text, caught my attention as it is something that I can relate to personally. Wishing I could go back in time and stay in that one place where you were happy and didn’t have any other issues.

I found that the recurring theme of the American dream stands out significantly throughout the book. The rich can be inconsiderate, both with their money and their attitudes, for that is the dream, apparently. One thing that I found very interesting is Fitzgerald’s use of highlighting the shocks of being an inconsiderate person at the time. We see that Daisy and Tom have it in their natural behaviour to be spiteful. They live nasty lives, careless for Myrtle, each other at times, and especially towards Gatsby. Fitzgerald has a discriminating ability for sharp evaluations of the economically advantaged and, like Jane Austin, has an ear for realistic, mocking dialogue. Through Nick’s narration, we see a world that so many Americans dream of. A life of endless parties, delicious food and beautiful clothes.

An underlying message that I gathered from this is that the dream is limited to many, and those who don’t achieve their goals and aspirations, live a life of misery.

Through my reading of the book, it seems as though ‘The American Dream’ lives on, despite individuals crashing and falling while not succeeding. There is the sense that god is not present.

The Colour Purple: Alice Walker

My first initial impression upon reading this book was gruesome and shivering to say the least. This book demonstrates the mistreatment of women, especially in the American south, in the 1930s.

Alice Walker narrates a story which attempts to notice a shared outline in problems pursuing civilizations across continents like emancipation of women, but she also gives us one shocking glimpse after another into the lives of women destroyed by the violence of rape and abuse, with the lives of these women seeking for meaning and looking for any ray of hope within misery.

This is an epistolary novel, seen through written letters, and Celie is the central character of these letters. We see her story being told through many letters written firstly to God, and then to her sister Nettie. As a harmed, uneducated woman, who was only ever shown love by Nettie, I found that the letters were very effective, mainly because Celie was limited to how she could express her emotions and feelings. It struck me at that a girl who was hurt and abused so much, both, could not be bitter and still have so much love in her heart. I believe that Celie is an exclusive voice that is sincere, honest and touching. It shows an intense picture of her life and develops as she herself matures to find that inner strength within her.

From my EL101 lecture, it was discussed that Celie can be seen as the colour purple itself. I didn’t think much of it at the time, however, the more I think of it, the more it makes sense to me. She doesn’t think that her existence has any worth, but she eventually comes to an understanding that, “I may be black. I may be ugly. But I’m here” (Walker, 1982). I found this line in particular, one of the few moments in the book that made me smile. It just speaks volumes and is so deep. The Colour Purple has complex characters and compound themes, but I believe that Walker has dealt with them in a simple, honest manner. The main themes of misogony, religion and uncritical faith, stand out for me in particular. It was not an easy book to read, neither plot nor writing were motivating. But I can say that I did find hope in the first, and even happiness in the last chapters.


  1. Fitzgearld, F. S., 2004. The Great Gatsby. First ed. New York: Scribner.
  2. Walker, A., 1982. The Colour Purple. First ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
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Reader’s Reflective Essay: Emma, Dubliners, Hard Times, The Great Gatsby, The Color Purple. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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