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Written by Sarah Yorkshire
(2/1/2011 11:22 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, This is what I cannot understand. Why would it have, penned by AnnetteJ
Although my only knowledge of the class hierarchy at the time comes from reading Austen and other novels, my impression is that an Emma Woodhouse, daughter of a gentleman, would not have visited a farming family like the Martins, unless out of charity (which they are not in need of). Mrs and Miss Bates were the wife and daughter of a clergyman before falling on hard times, so they still class as gentlefolk in Highbury. Although Emma would rather not visit Miss Bates, she is honour-bound to pay her respects, as infrequently as she can get away with ;)
And yes, I think the social strata really was that rigidly enforced. The Martins are beneath Emma's notice, and Emma raises Harriet up to her own level, so that Robert Martin is not good enough for Harriet either.
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