(& scroll down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, February 20, 2012

MORE clues that Once Upon A Time is a sly reworking of Jane Austen's Emma!

OK, this is getting VERY interesting!

So, my immediately preceding post earlier today.....

.....has already, in less than 12 hours, become the seventh most read post in the short history of my blog, and bids fair to move into second place before I wake up tomorrow morning EST!

In that post, I recounted the improbable serendipity of my stumbling upon a giant clue that the new hit TV series Once Upon A Time is not only an obvious reworking of various Disney-fied stories, but is also (perhaps solely for the intellectual amusement of the show's literarily sophisticated writers) a sly and veiled reworking of many elements from Jane Austen's work of staggering genius, Emma.

That clue was the character name "August Wayne Booth", and I also finished that post by pointing out the obvious additional clue, which is that the heroine of Once Upon A Time, like the heroine of Jane Austen's novel, has the first name "Emma"!

Well, now here's another tantalizing clue from last night's episode, which adds weight to my increasing certainty that the writers of this show have been playing some very clever literary games, in very much the same way that Jane Austen did in all her writing, but most of all in Emma!

Here goes:

August Wayne Booth, that very same mysterious character with the literary critic's name, picks up Emma Swan and takes her to a "watering hole" he knows, but Emma is surprised to find out that this is only the town wishing well, but then he tells her of the well's magical powers, etc etc.

So what does that have to do with Jane Austen? Well, any Janeite really familiar with her novels, and with the social history of the Regency Era during which she spent the final decade of her all too short life, knows that seaside pleasure destinations like Brighton and Weymouth (sorta like Atlantic City in the modern day US), where twenty somethings would hook up, Regency Era-style, were commonly referred to as "watering holes" or "watering places"!

And look in particular at the following descriptions of Frank Churchill spit out most uncharitably by the jealous Mr. Knightley to Emma Woodhouse in Emma:

"We hear of him for ever at some WATERING-PLACE or other. A little while ago, he was at Weymouth. This proves that he can leave the Churchills......Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good.—He meets with a young woman at a WATERING-PLACE, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment—and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.—His aunt is in the way.—His aunt dies.—He has only to speak.—His friends are eager to promote his happiness.—He had used every body ill—and they are all delighted to forgive him.—He is a fortunate man indeed!"

And look at this---the young woman that Frank C. has met at Weymouth is of course Jane Fairfax, the mystery woman whom Emma is so jealous of. As you will find out if you browse in this blog using the search function for her name, I claim was secretly pregnant in the shadow story of _Emma_, and who secretly gives away her illegitimate baby daughter to Mrs. Weston, who has pretended to be pregnant.

And of course Frank Churchill in _Emma_, like Emma Swan's son Henry, was given away for adoption years before, but has come back to the town of his birth (Highbury in Emma, Storybrooke in OUAT) and has brought mystery with him.

So....anyone out there want to help me find more clues to the puzzle that the writers of OUAT have constructed, which points to Jane Austen's Emma?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


Moshe said...

Intriguing theory.

It's now been almost a year since you posted this. Did you ever find further evidence in later episodes of the show?

Arnie Perlstein said...

The truth? No, not much at all. I don't know what the show's writers were up to in this regard, I thought for sure they'd give more, but they didn't and after a while I mostly lost interest in the show altogether, to be honest.