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|Snobbery, Mr. K, Emma, and Harriet
Written by BarbaraB
(3/13/2011 10:42 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Rendering Justice, penned by Robbin
I just finished reading and considering Bridget’s post below: “Snobs”. In fact I was relating to Bridget’s frustration earlier during the GR in trying to explain about snobs/class and wanted to reply that I understood what she was trying to say but the thread was kind of cut off so I never really got the chance. Bridget’s words: “Both (Emma and Mr. Knightley) believe in the class system,” which is a correct statement. In fact, this novel is about maintaining the balance of the class system and class consciousness. But like you, I have always felt that there was still a difference in Mr. Knightley and Emma. And in my opinion it all comes back to what some of us, yourself included, have been saying all along and what you have reiterated in this post. Emma has not looked past those she considers as inferiors to their worth and character.
Even though, many people who have studied Austen intensely, have written theses on her works, books, etc. refer to Emma as a snob, I think in this particular group read, we have gotten hung up on the word itself because the definition of snobbery coincides with what the structure and confines of the upper classes is, but there is in my opinion a snobbery that can exist within one’s own class and beyond to include those considered inferior. As you can see, I personally don’t have a problem with the word but for the sake of getting past the issue, I will assign the definition of the word as Emma’s definitions given to herself “insufferable vanity” and “impardonable arrogance.” (47) (Which is in essence her ‘snobbery’)
First of all, as concerns Harriet, I agree with everything you’ve said and will add that I feel Mr. Knightley was concerned about both young women and was worried about the damage that could be caused from the friendship. (If he only knew! :)) He was worried that it wasn’t good for Emma to have another person thinking she was perfect, certainly the last thing she needed, or for Harriet to get her hopes up when the circumstances of her birth were questionable. I have always felt also that he’d been introduced to Harriet early on because of the advice he’d given Robert Martin about marrying her. I don’t think he could have done so responsibly without some knowledge of her and he definitely believes in her worth and potential worth as well: "...but she is a pretty little creature, and I am inclined to think very well of her disposition. Her character depends upon those she is with; but in good hands she will turn out a valuable woman." (8)
This is what Mr. Knightley says about Mr. Martin: “He always speaks to the purpose; open, straight forward, and very well judging.” (8) We know Robert Martin is respectful, motivated, works hard for “the improvement of the estate”, responsible, genuine, etc., all the characteristics of Mr. Knightley. But Emma refuses to give Mr. Martin merit for the same qualities as her friend because Mr. Martin is her inferior and it does not suit her plans for him to be of good character.
Another thing the novel highlights is the wiggle room at the bottom of the gentry for others to work/earn their way into, like the Coles. Mr. Knightley is not opposed to this whereas Emma seems to be.
As part of being first lady of Highbury, Emma is expected to administer to the poor which she does, but for those in between them and the gentry, to whom she can be of no service, they are like a mass of beings to whom she was unable to see through to their humanity and as being inclusive as people of character and worth, regardless of the fact that as part of the gentry it was her right not to socialize with them. The socialization was the exterior or worldly part that gave her this right but the vanity and arrogance (snobbery) is located in her interior where feelings reside. There is nothing that says as part of her class that she cannot feel/think well of inferiors who are deserving of it or go as far as an introduction if the case warrants. This is what Emma eventually comes to realize through much reflection on her journey to self-realization.
Another great post, thanks.
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