Emma Woodhouse has the world at her fingertips. She’s young, pretty, and smart; she also happens to be the reigning queen of her village’s social scene. Emma lives in Highbury, a small town about 16 miles outside of London, with her aging father. Mr. Woodhouse loves Emma, but he’s utterly unable to offer her any guidance - which is perhaps why Emma doesn’t seem to have any sense of her own limitations. Life seems pretty sweet - if a bit boring - and so Emma decides to spice things up by taking on a protégé, Harriet Smith.
Even though Emma’s determined never to marry herself, she immediately decides to find Harriet a husband. Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." Emma, however, is also rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people's lives, and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.