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|Mr. Woodhouse & Mrs. Churchill – Emma & Frank
Written by Robbin
(4/12/2008 4:21 p.m.)
"That's easily said, and easily felt by you, who have always been your own master. You are the worst judge in the world, Mr. Knightley, of the difficulties of dependence. You do not know what it is to have tempers to manage."
"It is not to be conceived that a man of three or four-and-twenty should not have liberty of mind or limb to that amount. He cannot want money -- he cannot want leisure. We know, on the contrary, that he has so much of both, that he is glad to get rid of them at the idlest haunts in the kingdom. We hear of him for ever at some watering-place or other. A little while ago, he was at Weymouth. This proves that he can leave the Churchills."
"Yes, sometimes he can."
"And those times are, whenever he thinks it worth his while; whenever there is any temptation of pleasure."
"It is very unfair to judge of any body's conduct, without an intimate knowledge of their situation. Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be. We ought to be acquainted with Enscombe, and with Mrs. Churchill's temper, before we pretend to decide upon what her nephew can do. He may, at times, be able to do a great deal more than he can at others." (Chapter 18)
I think there are many allusions between Hartfield and Enscombe. Life-long valetudinarian Mr. Woodhouse and his gentle selfishness and anxious care of everyone seems to be a loveable version of the ill-tempered, demanding and selfish tyrant Mrs. Churchill who keeps Frank in attendance on her preventing a duty visit to his father. Emma is in the situation she describes hampering Frank’s intentions to visit Randalls—that of managing tempers. Although Emma accuses Mr. Knightley with no acquaintance of the kind I think his efforts to keep the peace along with her in Chapter 12 shows that he does have some experience in the matter. Emma is tied to Hartfield where her society is confined and she has no true companion because of her love and duty to her father—which she accepts and manages successfully each day with dedication, good-will and activity. Of Frank, all we know for certain is he does not come and sends handsome letters in his stead—Mr. Knightley interprets this as a failure to do his duty and rank politicking to please everyone at the same time rather than stand-up and do what he knows to be right:
"There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses, and that is, his duty; not by maneuvering and finessing, but by vigour and resolution. It is Frank Churchill's duty to pay this attention to his father. He knows it to be so, by his promises and messages; but if he wished to do it, it might be done. A man who felt rightly would say at once, simply and resolutely, to Mrs. Churchill, 'Every sacrifice of mere pleasure you will always find me ready to make to your convenience; but I must go and see my father immediately. I know he would be hurt by my failing in such a mark of respect to him on the present occasion. I shall, therefore, set off to-morrow.' If he would say so to her at once, in the tone of decision becoming a man, there would be no opposition made to his going." (Chapter 18)
Mr. Knightley cuts through to what he sees as the heart of the matter—what I get from this is he thinks Frank puts care of himself before his duty. If I take Mr. Knightley at his word and I think he has a good point, while their situations appear to have similarities, Emma appears far more sensible of her duty than Frank who by situation in life has far more freedom to choose his way than Emma. I don’t think Emma could just pick up and leave Hartfield, someone would have to take her place during her absence if Mr. Woodhouse was to be left behind and then there are all her duties at home. I am sure none of these constraints are also Frank’s and as some proof of the point, Mr. Knightley in Chapter 18, “We hear of him for ever at some watering-place or other” while Emma has never seen the sea per Chapter 12. (;D)
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