RORY: Aha! You liked it, you liked Jane Austen. I knew you would. Lane, Dean likes Jane Austen.
Emma is a 1815 novel by English author Jane Austen. Unlike other of her books, the heroine Emma Woodhouse, blessed with youth, beauty, and intelligence, is independently wealthy and has no need to marry a rich man. In fact, rather than being under any pressure to marry, her elderly father would much prefer she remain as his companion. This is quite similar to Rory’s situation with Lorelai, who certainly isn’t pressuring her into a relationship, and that she has freely chosen Dean.
Emma, who believes she always knows what’s best, has a habit of meddling in her friends’ love lives, and is much more interested in doing so than thinking about romance for herself. Ironically, Rory can’t be bothered listening to her best friend’s love problems, as she is so wrapped up in her new relationship with Dean.
Rory’s choice of book might also remind us of Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary, which Rory was reading when Dean first noticed her: both Emma Woodhouse and Emma Bovary are great readers. It’s a reminder of the two “Emmas” in Rory’s character – the detached, intelligent Emma Woodhouse, and the romantic Emma Bovary who makes foolish choices.
NB: I have more often seen this book identified as Northanger Abbey, but I cannot locate an edition of that novel which resembles the book Dean hands over to Rory. To me it looks as if it might be the 1996 Signet edition of Emma, with an introduction by British author and critic, Margaret Drabble. However, I welcome input on this question, and will edit this entry if the correct edition of Northanger Abbey is shown to me.