The idea that social life is just — on the marriage market and elsewhere — is the greatest fiction in Jane Austen, and the one that makes her happy endings possible. ... But it is also the key to her wonderfully intimate imagination of happiness. Few books make the reader as happy as “Emma,” because few depict so well the joy of being understood, the way Mr. Knightley understands Emma Woodhouse. For all of Austen’s heroines, it is this sense of being truly seen, of marrying a man who loves them as they really are, that is the great reward. The institution of marriage, like the novel itself, has changed greatly since Austen’s time; but as long as human beings long for this kind of mutual recognition and understanding, “Emma” will live.
and Life Today?", by Adam Kirsch, in the New York Times Book Review