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|Romantic expectations & extraordinary virtues
Written by Robbin
(4/9/2008 3:34 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Same here, penned by Line
Emma was very compassionate; and the distresses of the poor were as sure of relief from her personal attention and kindness, her counsel and her patience, as from her purse. 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)
I questioned Emma’s view of the poor because her expectations and understanding of other people’s motives and capabilities are often disputed by the narrator or Mr. Knightley and IMO she has definite but inaccurate views of several groups of people—in Chapter 3 the Martins must be coarse and unpolished, in Chapter 4 a successful farmer will be completely gross, vulgar, inattentive to appearances thinking of nothing but profit and loss and in Chapter 10 a poor old maid must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid and it seems to me her view no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue in the poor is just as blanket a view as the others. If Emma is wrong about one group might she not be wrong about the poor too?
Emma’s thoughts about the poor also reflect on opinions she has of particular people in ways I find interesting which may suggest her view of the poor is off.
Emma expects no romantic expectations of extraordinary virtue from Mr. Martin but in fact he is presented as having such extraordinary virtues for a man of his status that Mr. Knightley sees him as a gentleman-farmer with a mind of true gentility. Emma can not or will not see Mr. Martin’s good points so perhaps she is just as blind to any possibility of extraordinary virtues among the poor. On the other hand, Emma has romantic expectations for Harriet who she castes as a pretty parlor boarder who is in reality the daughter of a gentleman of fortune—these are extraordinary virtues indeed but as far as I can tell have no basis in reality. Mr. Knightly tells Emma in Chapter 8 that her infatuation with Harriet blinds her. It seems to me in Emma thinks she understands Harriet and Mr. Martin but her expectations or lack of them seem to be wrong.
I am not attempting to relieve Emma of the considerable kindness, compassion and good-will she shows to the cottagers in Chapter 10 and my view has been gentled but I am not convinced her views of the poor are as unapproachable as Sir Walter would like his shrubberies to be. (;D)
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