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|Charity, generosity and good-will
Written by Robbin
(4/7/2008 3:40 a.m.)
I think Chapter 10 reveals more of Emma’s prejudiced thinking in regards to people of lower status with a hearty theme of charity. Who truly is charitable and generous? Who deserves generosity and charity? It also brought to my mind the idea that there is more to charity and generosity than visiting the poor sometimes compassion is required in daily relationships. I think Emma’s prejudice colors what and who she considers valuable as well as what she believes of people as was so obvious in her judgment of Mr. Martin.
She understood their ways, could allow for their ignorance and their temptations, had no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from those, for whom education had done so little; entered into their troubles with ready sympathy, and always gave her assistance with as much intelligence as good-will.(Chapter 10)
Emma is giving, compassionate, kind and patient to the poor family she visits in Chapter 10 because she believes she understands their ways and allows for their ignorance and temptations. She has no romantic notions about them and expects no extraordinary virtues from those for whom education had done so little. Perhaps there is none in this particular cottage but to me the idea that no extraordinary virtues could exist in such people seems to be her prejudice speaking—many extraordinary people have been born in poverty and with little formal education have risen to admiration, fame and fortune in history. I think the poor cottagers are an example of the kind of creditable appearing people Emma told Harriet are not above her notice or attention in Chapter 4.
Emma attends the cottagers with good-will—something she does not always reserve for the genteel poor in her mist—the Bates who instead of being born in poverty have sunk into poverty. The cottagers cannot help their faults while perhaps the Bates can? For whatever reason, Emma is much more compassionate of the cottagers’ situation than she is of Miss Bates and her niece. I think when Emma tells Harriet a poor old maid must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid it seems to me she is speaking of Miss Bates, the only old maid of her acquaintance. She says “if I thought I should ever be like her…I would marry tomorrow.” Emma gives Harriet an explanation of why a narrow income makes an old maid ungenerous, sour, cross and illiberal but immediately confesses that none of this applies to Mrs. Bates who is only “too good natured and too silly to suit me” but in general “she is very much to the taste of everybody.” I can understand Miss Bates being too silly for Emma to like but too good natured smacks of envy or guilt—perhaps both. When Emma speaks of Jane Fairfax I think these envy-guilt feelings are also evident.
I thought Emma’s annoyance with Miss Bates for dwelling on Jane a bit over the top. Emma is annoyed at repeated hearings of Jane’s generosity such as sending compliments to all her friends in Highbury and sending the pattern of a stomacher to her aunt and taking time and effort to make garters for her grandmother—attentions that must mean a lot to the poverty stricken Bates but Emma easily dismisses as of little value in general and none whatsoever in conservation. It reminded me a great deal of Emma’s quick dismissal of Mr. Martin’s generous but ungilded attentions to Harriet and her surety that every action of Mr. Elton’s is another sign of his passion for her friend.
Mr. Martin’s attentions to Harriet and Jane’s attentions to her friends and family are kind and generous but are not expensive. Emma is impressed with Mr. Elton’s volunteering to take Harriet’s portrait to town for framing in Chapter 6 which is kind but also a little more expensive than Mr. Martin's going about the neighborhood to get walnuts. Emma also attributes his volunteering to a desire to have the portrait near him and to show his mother and sisters which is not selfish as such but certainly beneficial only to him. Emma dismisses Jane of the poverty stricken Bates and Mr. Martin who is a mere farmer and their attentions to others as worthless while favoring Mr. Elton who is superior in wealth and situation.
I thought Emma’s annoyance at the rehashing of Jane’s letters very funny considering the whole town was gaga over Frank’s handsome letter to Mr. Weston in Chapter 2 even though he has never bothered to show his face in Highbury. From what Emma has said, Jane is an attentive friend, niece and grand-daughter yet she seems to dislike her while Frank, clearly showing a lesser degree of attention to her beloved friend Poor Miss Taylor (as was) escapes censure completely. Emma feels forced to be acquainted with Jane Fairfax’s doings and the lady herself, it seems to me she is actively dislikes Jane rather than just being bored with her but there seems to be no reciprocal feeling about wealthy Frank who has been a town darling for many years sight unseen. I think in this case mystery and curiosity give Frank the advantage as well as wealth.
The lovers were standing together at one of the windows. It had a most favourable aspect; and, for half a minute, Emma felt the glory of having schemed successfully. But it would not do; he had not come to the point. He had been most agreeable, most delightful; he had told Harriet that he had seen them go by, and had purposely followed them; other little gallantries and allusions had been dropt, but nothing serious. (Chapter 10)
Mr. Elton tells Emma and Harriet that he was on his way to visit the cottagers but he would defer that visit and accompany them. They have an interesting parley about the cottagers and Emma thinks "To fall in with each other on such an errand as this, to meet in a charitable scheme; this will bring a great increase of love on each side.” However after using arts to leave Harriet and Mr. Elton alone twice and get her inside of the parsonage the predicted declaration never comes. Emma learns that Mr. Elton was not on his way to visit the cottagers but had seen them walk by and purposely followed them—Emma sees this admission as a most delightful gallantry instead of a lie that erases her previous idea of Harriet and Mr. Elton meeting in the same charitable scheme. (;D)
- Emma has compassion, good-will and patience for the cottagers but not for Miss Bates. This seems because the cottagers can’t help their faults; does Emma think Miss Bates can help hers?
- What exactly does disliking someone because they are too good natured actually mean? Is it a sign of envy or guilt? What is too good natured?
- Emma does not censure Mr. Elton for lying to them but turns it into a gallantry. Is this because Emma uses so many arts herself in trying to match Harriet and Mr. Elton that she sees nothing wrong in it?
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