Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|with such seeming pleasure at the conviction
Written by Stephanie
(2/18/2011 11:59 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, But it had been so strong an idea..., penned by Reeba
I agree that imagining a romantic involvement for Miss Fairfax was not meant maliciously, nor was her telling Mr. Churchill about it planned. But I think I disagree that it would have been harmless to just think it.
I was at a talk about the psychology of making guesses about people. One of the examples used was a job interview: the interviewed says something that makes the interviewer suspect him of, I don't know, following his own mind instead of a boss's orders. Human nature would be to ask questions after that hint that reinforce the idea: usually more subtle versions of "Can you tell me other times when you disregarded an order or policy on your own judgment alone?" But that is a bad habit (albeit widespread); scientific method requires you to try to disprove a theory, not ONLY gather evidence in favour of it. So, the interviewer's questions should be more of the nature of: "Can you tell me of times when you obeyed a superior despite thinking a different plan was better?"
So, here is Emma in ch. 19, struck by an ingenious and animating suspicion by Miss Bates's accidental information, and she strives to prove it, rather than collecting evidence on both sides and weighing the results impartially. Frank Churchill confirms an account of Mr. Dixon saving Miss Fairfax at Weymouth, including that he saw the Campbell party frequently, and at no time saw anything but smooth friendliness among them. Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston both praise Miss Fairfax's elegance and good sense, and Emma herself sees Jane Fairfax as a reserved, genteel, accomplished lady with a regrettable future ahead of her. Yet, her suspicions become certainty very quickly, and she sees all proof in favour of her ideas and none against.
This is not harmless, for it colours all of her thoughts and actions, and, because she has a self-confident air and an influence on those around her, it effects a wider circle than, say, Miss Nash's suppositions. Even had she not imparted her guess to Frank Churchill in ch. 26, she would still smile a knowing smile, and avoid talking to Jane Fairfax about the piano later; she might even have tried to 'help' by redirecting Mrs. Weston's focus on it in after-supper conversation. All these little clues would have told any observer (and Emma is VERY well-watched by many) that 'something was up.'
She does this (as do others) many times throughout the book, but an excellent example is later in ch. 26, when Mrs. Weston and Emma discuss Mr. Knightley's possible romantic interest in Jane Fairfax. Emma's arguments against are slippery at best. Mrs. Weston's are better founded, but Emma's decided attitude gradually lets her gain ground, and, with no arguments of any value on her side, Emma's opinion changes Mrs. Weston's somewhat.
It is a natural, foolish bit of human nature, that Author Austen captures wonderfully.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.