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|Miss Bates drops a bombshell (chapt. 21)
Written by Delories
(2/14/2011 4:45 a.m.)
This entire chapter is a gem, one of my favorites in the entire book, but I will stick to what Miss Bates tells us in direct speech. Don't you just love the way the whole process of telling the news about Mr Elton is jumbled up with the hind leg of pork? First, Miss Bates's visit is ostensibly motivated by coming to thank the Woodhouses personally; second, eager as she is to impart her tale, she quickly does thank them and in the same breath tells about Mr E. and Miss Hawkins, but interspersed with pork-related near non-sequiturs about Patty the maid and the salting-pan.
The whole chapter is filled with masterly monologues from Miss Bates. These are not only funny and give us a long, vivid look at the twists and turns of this lady's mind (a wonderful example of JA's abilities at depicting character through direct speech) -- they also impart some interesting information, showing Miss B. to be more astute than we might think:
- There were rumors in Highbury about Mr. E's aspirations to Emma.
- Miss Bates, at least, suspected Harriet's infatuation with him (note the placement of her sudden "How does Miss Smith do? She seems quite recovered, now").
- And, through Jane's denial when Miss Bates fancies that Mr Dixon looks like Mr John Knightley (i.e. tall and handsome), we find that Mr D is, in fact, "certainly plain", thus contradicting one of Emma's romantic fantasies.
Something else we can possibly glean from Miss Bates's stream-of-consciousness speeches: She seems a bit of a match-maker, in her own way. Note this (with the long dashes breaking up the seemingly disjointed utterances): "Oh! Mr. Knightley is coming too. Well, that is so very!--- I am sure if Jane is tired, you will be so kind as to give her your arm.--- Mr. Elton, and Miss Hawkins.--- Good morning to you."
Could there be significance in Miss Bates's encouraging Mr K to give Jane his arm, and in the next breath alluding yet again to the news of the upcoming Elton nuptials?
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