Family Relationships: The case of the missing parents :-)
Written by kathleen (elder)
(3/31/2008 6:54 a.m.)
JA keeps the number of characters to a reasonable number, which makes it easier to keep track of everyone. She also has a tendency to eliminate parents (before the start of the novel, that is).
Emma's mother is dead;
Mr Knightley's parents are dead;
Mr Weston's first wife (mother of Frank) is dead;
Miss Bates's father is dead;
Robert Martin's father is (apparently) dead;
Harriet's parents are unknown (though it appears that one of them, probably her father(?), is alive and providing money for her upkeep);
Mrs Weston (poor Miss Taylor that was!) seems to have no family at all outside of the Woodhouses.
Lack of parents sets up some of the situations and gives the characters more leeway relative to the action, I think:
Emma is in charge of Hartfield since her mother is gone and her father not up to the task;
Mr Knightley has responsibility for the Donwell Estate;
Frank Churchill has the good fortune to be raised by wealthy relatives;
Miss Bates's father's death would have meant a significant change in her (& her mother's) standard of living;
Robert Martin has responsibility for the farm and for his mother & sisters;
Harriet is left to the care of Mrs Goddard, and to the whims of her new friend Emma;
Miss Taylor/Mrs Weston has had the fortune of being loved by the Woodhouse family and marrying a good man.