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|birth, money and class
Written by Nikki N
(2/2/2011 4:52 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Absolutely, penned by locarol
In her argument with Mr Knightley over Harriet and Robert Martin, Emma admitted that "Mr. Martin may be the richest of the two," but she insisted that "he is undoubtedly her inferior as to rank in society."
Emma then went on to say --
It seems to me that --
2. even Emma admitted that Martin was richer than Harriet, and
3. the fact that Harriet's father had enough money to pay a liberal allowance does not necessarily mean that he was a gentleman, he could be a well-to-do tradesman -- as Mr K points out -- "she is left in Mrs. Goddard's hands to shift as she can; -- to move, in short, in Mrs. Goddard's line, to have Mrs. Goddard's acquaintance." It was only Emma who wanted Harriet to move in "good society".
From my reading of literature of that erea, money and birth do not always go together in society -- a poor gentlewoman may be regarded as higher on the social scale than a rich tradesman's wife or daughter (even when legitimate!) So money is not everything. A gentleman's illegitimate daughter would be regarded as lower than his legitimate daughter. So a tradesman's illegitimate daughter would be even lower. Emma is playing a very dangerous game in encouraging Harriet to expect to marry well -- what if Harriet's father might turn out to be a tradesman? Or even a well to do farmer in Mr Martin's position?
Also, I don't think Mr K was a snob in his arguments -- he was being realistic in pointing out the views of society in general, and he was concerned that Emma would be doing harm to Harriet by raising unrealistic expectations.
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