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|Their peace is cut up for some time (long)
Written by Robbin
(2/11/2011 1:34 p.m.)
Mr. Martin’s disappointment and Mr. Knightley’s scruples on his account and consciousness of his advice to the young man were overshadowed in previous chapters by the happier focus on Emma and Harriet. In this week’s chapters as Emma’s happy project turns sour other irritations and “private perplexities” (16) surface to disturb the elite residents of Highbury. They find their tranquility stolen by another’s or more often by their own actions.
Mr. John Knightley was brimming with ill humor at the necessity of attending Mr. Weston’s Christmas party. The “the sacrifice of his children after dinner, were evils, were disagreeables at least” and he “anticipated nothing in the visit that could be at all worth the purchase” (13). Home again at Hartfield he is ashamed of his ill humor. It got the best of him and he unnecessarily excited Mr. Woodhouse’s anxieties bringing the party to an end. He really dropped the ball in his de facto duty to accommodate his father in-law’s eccentrics for the better enjoyment of everyone however I can’t help but like a man so devoted to his children.
Poor Miss Taylor that Was is apprehensive Frank will disappoint her husband by delaying his visit to Highbury again but she also seems wary of meeting him on her own account. Emma observes the “first meeting must be rather alarming. Mrs. Weston agreed to it” and later says “The introduction must be unpleasant, whenever it takes place; and the sooner it could be over, the better” (14). I suppose the anticipated unpleasantness has to do with Frank’s failing to show this mark of respect to his father and her—she “cannot bear to imagine any reluctance on his side” (14). Mrs. Weston is left hanging when the visit is once again put off. Mr. Knightley more readily and vocally criticizes Frank for his neglect:
There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty… It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it might be done. A man who felt rightly would say at once, simply and resolutely… I must go and see my father immediately. I know he would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him on the present occasion. …It is on her [Mrs. Weston’s] account that attention to Randalls is doubly due, and she must doubly feel the omission." (18)
The debacle in the Knightley’s carriage (15) gives Emma much to regret. I can’t help but agree with Mr. Knightley that Emma’s interference has proven her to be “no friend to Harriet Smith” (8). Emma is still only half believing it herself in that she still feels separating Harriet from Robert Martin was a good thing. Emma gratefully becomes “a most honourable prisoner” of the ice and snow. She need not “find excuses for Mr. Elton's absenting himself” (16) but comfort was wanting in Harriet was yet to be enlightened. She must confess all her blunders and “destroy all the hopes which she had been so industriously feeding” (17). When the time comes Harriet makes it easier for she will not blame Emma and feels grateful she ever thought her worthy of Mr. Elton. Emma’s interference in Harriet’s love life is not a neglect of duty but rather too much wrong-headed attention.
Disliking Mr. Elton as I do it is still impossible to find more blame in him than Emma in his doomed proposal. I feel she is right that there was “no real affection either in his language or manners” and he “only wanted to aggrandize and enrich himself” (16) but she is also right in judging he had reason for “fancying himself a very decided favourite” (16). No matter Elton’s reasons for proposing he offered believing it would be gladly received so his mortification is pretty much on Emma. She made the situation worse by dwelling warmly on Harriet and failing to refuse him with all the “expressions of gratitude and concern for the pain… [she was] inflicting as propriety requires” (7). Emma expresses no gratitude and her concern for his pain is as insincere as the sentiments he expressed for her:
"Encouragement! I give you encouragement! sir, you have been entirely mistaken in supposing it. I have seen you only as the admirer of my friend. …I am exceedingly sorry: but it is well that the mistake ends where it does. …But, as it is, the disappointment is single, and, I trust, will not be lasting. I have no thoughts of matrimony at present." (15)
Mr. Elton is angry, resentful and mortified at being not just rejected by Emma but unequivocally put in his place as her inferior. His feelings drive him to his own small neglect of duty which I hope is not telegraphing his future manner to Emma. At the first break in the weather he writes Mr. Woodhouse to say he is leaving Highbury the next day to visit Bath “and very much regretted the impossibility …of taking a personal leave of Mr. Woodhouse” (17). He is not as quick to forgive as Harriet and Emma sees a slight to herself in his letter:
Resentment could not have been more plainly spoken than in a civility to her father, from which she was so pointedly excluded. She had not even a share in his opening compliments. Her name was not mentioned; -- and there was so striking a change in all this, and such an ill-judged solemnity of leave-taking in his grateful acknowledgments… (17)
Emma knows Mrs. and Miss Bates “loved to be called on” (19), it is one of their “scanty comforts” but she cannot bring herself to do it very often because she finds it “very disagreeable” (19) which seems putting self-interest before duty. Emma is sensible of “many a hint from Mr. Knightley and some from her own heart, as to her deficiency” (19). Since Emma feels her own deficiency I think she is actually neglecting a social duty. I feel the Bates ladies should garner Emma’s compassion, kindness and attention due to their situation but also they are owed attention particularly for their willingness to oblige her father. Their attentions to Mr. Woodhouse ought to mean something to Emma—it reminds me of her failure to consider any attention due to Robert Martin (4) for his and his family’s many kindnesses to Harriet. I sympathize with the idea not every person can be liked but feel Jane Fairfax as an extension of her aunt and grandmother is owed attention as well. I think Emma prides herself on being “lady of the manner” so to speak in Highbury but it seems to me she has to accept the disagreeable as well as the good in such a position.
Emma and Frank Churchill are similar in the failure to visit others. Neither have the appearance of their peace being cut-up too much from their neglects although his excuses and her realization of negligence speak to a guilty conscious. Mr. Knightley is rather unforgiving of Frank blasting the excuse that his duty to his father and new wife is at the mercy of his aunt and uncle. Emma really has no valid excuse—as far as I know she is not held back from visiting the Bates by her father and Mr. Knightley encourage her to visit more. I think it is interesting that social duty delayed or neglected so often played a role in disturbing the peace of so many.
Thanks for reading! (:D)
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