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|Ill tidings for future good-will
Written by Robbin
(4/12/2008 4:40 p.m.)
Emma’s innate happy disposition allows her to recover from the shocking revelations brought out by Mr. Elton’s proposal in Chapter 16 letting her hope for a quick end to all attending miseries. I think Emma’s hopes are partly sense and partly naïve and partly self-serving in soothing her own conscience while still very concerned for the feelings of others. From Chapter 17, “It was a great consolation that…
…Mr. Elton should not be really in love with her, or so particularly amiable as to make it shocking to disappoint him –
…Harriet's nature should not be of that superior sort in which the feelings are most acute and retentive
…and that there could be no necessity for any body's knowing what had passed except the three principals, and especially for her father's being given a moment's uneasiness about it.”
How likely are these things to come to pass? Emma’s speculations on Mr. Elton’s love for her and his ambitions in Chapter 16 combined with what the Knightley Duo discerned of the man make him quite unsympathetic:
To Mr. John Knightley was she indebted for her first idea on the subject, for the first start of its possibility. There was no denying that those brothers had penetration. She remembered what Mr. Knightley had once said to her about Mr. Elton, the caution he had given, the conviction he had professed that Mr. Elton would never marry indiscreetly; and blushed to think how much truer a knowledge of his character had been there shewn than any she had reached herself. It was dreadfully mortifying; but Mr. Elton was proving himself, in many respects, the very reverse of what she had meant and believed him; proud, assuming, conceited; very full of his own claims, and little concerned about the feelings of others.
Contrary to the usual course of things, Mr. Elton's wanting to pay his addresses to her had sunk him in her opinion. His professions and his proposals did him no service. She thought nothing of his attachment, and was insulted by his hopes. He wanted to marry well, and having the arrogance to raise his eyes to her, pretended to be in love; but she was perfectly easy as to his not suffering any disappointment that need be cared for. There had been no real affection either in his language or manners. Sighs and fine words had been given in abundance; but she could hardly devise any set of expressions, or fancy any tone of voice, less allied with real love. She need not trouble herself to pity him. He only wanted to aggrandize and enrich himself; and if Miss Woodhouse of Hartfield, the heiress of thirty thousand pounds, were not quite so easily obtained as he had fancied, he would soon try for Miss Somebody else with twenty, or with ten. (Chapter 16)
I agree with Emma Mr. Elton is the reverse of what she imagined him and considering the arts he used to be with her, pretending interest in Harriet and following herself and Harriet to the cottagers pretending to be on an errand of mercy, I am inclined to believe he was not in love with Emma but merely making the best connection he could. What is on the amusing side is Emma used arts in her attempt to capture Mr. Elton for Harriet and part of her reasoning was she wanted Harriet to be raised in the world to a gentleman’s wife. Ambition on behalf of Harriet was always her mind. Some of the behaviors she despises Mr. Elton for she was guilty of also but she does not recognize it. Poor Harriet does not comply so much with Emma’s desires:
Harriet did think him all perfection, and maintain the non-existence of any body equal to him in person or goodness, and did, in truth, prove herself more resolutely in love than Emma had foreseen; but yet it appeared to her so natural, so inevitable to strive against an inclination of that sort unrequited, that she could not comprehend its continuing very long in equal force. (Chapter 17)
I noticed, also in Chapter 17, that Emma recognizes she is not a good judge of how long it should take Harriet to get over Mr. Elton but she reasons it will end rather quickly with the extinction of all hope she believes Mr. Elton’s indifference will assure. Emma’s hope no one but the three of them, herself, Harriet and Mr. Elton, will have to know of the rejected proposal and her attempts to match him and Harriet might seem selfish but while I think Emma is embarrassed at her blunder, I also think it is the smallest reason behind her desire to keep it quiet. It would be greatly embarrassing for Mr. Elton to be known to have proposed and been rejected. It would be embarrassing for Harriet to know she had let herself become attached to a man not already attached to her. Lastly, of course they would both, certainly Harriet, would be seen as ambitious as to their choice. I also think Emma’s desire to keep it from Mr. Woodhouse is obviously for the best. I think the knowledge would disrupt his sensibilities for each of the three as well as remind him of his assertion that Emma should not make matches in Chapter 1.
If Mr. Elton, on his return, made his own indifference as evident and indubitable as she could not doubt he would anxiously do, she could not imagine Harriet's persisting to place her happiness in the sight or the recollection of him. (Chapter 17)
Emma thinks the best behavior of them all would be to affect indifference towards each other and meet in the common routine of acquaintance. There is, however, already a fly in the ointment. After what has passed between them IMO it is not strange there should be strained feelings between Emma and Mr. Elton. When he left the carriage after the rejection (Chapter 16) he could barely affect common courtesy—it is hardly amazing behavior at such a time but his anger and swelling resentment does not seem to alleviate at all after the passing of a few days. In Chapter 17 Mr. Elton writes to Mr. Woodhouse a letter full of “an ill-judged solemnity of leave-taking" and "grateful acknowledgments” to explain his leaving Highbury without taking personal leave of her father but also ignores Emma completely. Emma sees this as a sure sign of his resentment. I think she is right and it might bode ill for his ability to meet with herself and Harriet in the common routine of acquaintance and if his behavior is otherwise how can it help to keep his proposal, Harriet’s attachment, her rejection and Emma’s matchmaking a secret? (;D)
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