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|subtleties of independence and obtaining?
Written by Ivonne
(4/3/2008 9:01 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Independence, penned by Lori Kate
Great point on the relative nature of independence (or anything else, I suppose)! Mrs. Weston is certainly more independent than was Miss Taylor, not only in her immediate surroundings, but in her prospects for life.
However beloved she was with Emma and Mr. Wodehouse, her position in their home was tenuous, societally speaking, and she could not have been unaware of the fact. She certainly was not much use as a governess now, with Emma a grown woman. Perhaps she would have continued on as a companion to Emma, but always in a position that smacked of business, however unspoken. A governess or companion can have no say in any home, and less so in a home dominated by a Mr. Wodehouse, to whose whims (as Mr. Knightley points out in Lori Kate's aptly chosen quote) submission is the primary form of response.
Yet, returning to Laraine's highlighting of the word "obtain" with regard to Mr. Weston's situation, I have to agree that, while the word may also mean other things (then as now), it is hard to avoid the commercial edge. Miss Taylor has in some ways slipped from one from of commodity to another in becoming Mrs. Weston, though certainly one with more value. Her status as mistress of Randalls will continue at least as long as Mr. Weston lives, and she will be provided for thereafter as well. A perpetually unmarried Miss Taylor could not have had that security. You could say perhaps that her stock is up!
While I find such a view unappealing to say the least, it does permeate the social environment of the time, and I appreciate the nudge to look at the implicit assumptions here. It seems to me an especially appropriate approach for Austen. Doesn't Austen satirize more from within, pointing out the flaws of social convention even as she makes use of them, without necessarily starting a revolution to overthrow the mores she holds up to inspection?
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