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Written by Robbin
(3/5/2011 3:26 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Emma, penned by Reeba
Mr. Elton’s refusal to dance with Harriet (32) was aimed at putting her in her place and other people might follow his example so in dancing with her Mr. Knightley rendered a much needed attention. After all Harriet is illegitimate and her social position relies on the condescension of Emma and her circle and “any want of attention to her here should be carefully avoided” (23). Mr. Knightley rescued Harriet from the humiliation of being snubbed by her own parson which, unless we should believe Harriet was in real physical danger from the gypsies, would have had a greater impact on her life. Why does Emma forget this? Perhaps Emma is just choosing fancy over understanding once again.
Emma would never speak to her father as she does to Mrs. Bates on Box Hill and she would immediately condemn anyone who did so I have to disagree it is natural for her to forget holding Miss Bates up for ridicule before their friends is cruel, ill bred, unjust, ungracious and an abuse of her social power. I feel Emma has trained herself to abuse and neglect Miss Bates as a matter of course and to think nothing of it. After all Emma believes Miss Bates is ridiculous and disagreeable so avoiding her whenever she can, disparaging her to Harriet (10), ridiculing her to Frank (23) and mocking her to Mrs. Weston (26) no matter how wrong is completely understandable—she can hardly be blamed. Emma says this in her own defense to Mr. Knightley:
Emma recollected, blushed, was sorry, but tried to laugh it off.
"Nay, how could I help saying what I did? Nobody could have helped it. It was not so very bad. I dare say she did not understand me."
"I assure you she did. She felt your full meaning. She has talked of it since. I wish you could have heard how she talked of it -- with what candour and generosity. I wish you could have heard her honouring your forbearance, in being able to pay her such attentions, as she was for ever receiving from yourself and your father, when her society must be so irksome."
"Oh!" cried Emma, "I know there is not a better creature in the world: but you must allow, that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately blended in her." (43)
I propose Emma’s forgetfulness came from gradually, over time, devaluing Miss Bates deserts and neglecting her more often because of it. Repeated poor treatment of Miss Bates made it a habit which led to worse behavior as time went on. Forgetting her ridicule was wrong is just the consequence of rationalizing her behavior rather than correcting it. I do think Frank’s fan-ship encouraged Emma even before Box Hill. He told Emma that he “felt very much obliged… for your preparatory hint. If the talking aunt had taken me quite by surprize, it must have been the death of me” (24). I hope you are right and Emma learns to value and treat Miss Bates according to her merit rather than according to her internal annoyance meter. Thanks! (:D)
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