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|Respect for Right Conduct
Written by Robbin
(3/6/2011 11:00 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Physical danger..., penned by Reeba
I agree Mr. Knightley intended to lift Harriet’s spirits after Mr. Elton’s public snub but he also danced with her because it was the right thing to do as his censure of Mr. Elton shows: “He was warm in his reprobation of Mr. Elton's conduct; it had been unpardonable rudeness” (38). I don’t suspect Mr. Knightley said to himself “I am going to dance and show all how to treat Miss Smith” rather the “teaching” is in the doing because “Respect for right conduct is felt by every body” (18). I don’t know if Mr. Elton respects right conduct but it seems he feels the censure of Mr. Knightley’s taking his place on the dance floor because he “retreated into the cardroom, looking (Emma trusted) very foolish” (38).
Some folks might be guided by Emma or the Elton’s treatment of others because they both have positions of power—Emma being first lady of Highbury and Mr. Elton the vicar of Highbury. The narrator tells us “The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All looked up to them” (1). Emma’s patronage established Harriet in the society of the first families and Harriet’s opinions and behavior has aptly shown Emma’s influence. It is visible in this response to the idea Mr. Knightley’s attentions might have been for the interest of Mr. Martin: “I hope I know better now, than to care for Mr. Martin, or to be suspected of it” (47). Mr. Elton has the respect and power of his office. While I think highly of Highbury’s population I think there is the possibility some of his parish could guided by his treatment of Harriet. A clergyman’s behavior is supposed to be an example for his parishioners:
A fine preacher is followed and admired; but it is not in fine preaching only that a good clergyman will be useful in his parish and his neighbourhood, where the parish and neighbourhood are of a size capable of knowing his private character, and observing his general conduct… The manners I speak of might rather be called conduct, perhaps, the result of good principles; the effect, in short, of those doctrines which it is their duty to teach and recommend; and it will, I believe, be everywhere found, that as the clergy are, or are not what they ought to be, so are the rest of the nation.” (MP, 9)
In my post 50442 I said Emma devalued “Miss Bates deserts” meaning she thought the lady deserved less but after thinking it over I realize that to be wrong. Emma did know in her heart she had neglected Miss Bates so she did know what the lady deserved. What I wanted to address was why Emma did not realize she had been so unfeeling and insolent to Miss Bates. I think it was because Emma was so in the habit of ridiculing Miss Bates to herself and selected friends, without ever receiving any censure couched to make her reconsider the appropriateness of her wit, that at Box Hill habit ruled the day. I guess it is correctly described as thoughtless wit but I still feel it is thoughtlessness towards Miss Bates that Emma has nurtured within herself. I think Emma has always recognized Miss Bates’ good qualities but IMO somewhere between childhood and twenty-one she stopped valuing her good qualities and stopped respecting the lady because if she did I think she would have treated her differently. (:D)
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