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|Emma reminds me
Written by nan duval
(4/13/2008 5:51 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, A waste of time…, penned by Robbin
of people I've known who exhibit extraordinary compassion toward & desire to assist the very poor but can't be bothered with those immediately in front of them. They are willing to go all out for the wretched, but not to have a civil word for those just "beneath" them in whatever heirarchical system they choose to adopt.
Emma's dedication to maintaining the Highbury class distinctions is both annoyingly and amusingly small-minded in one who is capable of so much more.
Mr. Elton's proposal to her & rejection of Harriet should have made her begin to consider a different perspective on these matters. It would take more, however. Emma's attitude toward the Coles, and associating with them undergoes an amusing evolution. Their regular visits to Mrs. & Miss Bates contribute to Emma's avoiding those two ladies, and the Coles are giving more parties.
"The regular and best families Emma could hardly suppose they would presume to invite—neither Donwell, nor Hartfield, nor Randalls. Nothing should tempt her to go, if they did; and she regretted that her father's known habits would be giving her refusal less meaning than she could wish. The Coles were very respectable in their way, but they ought to be taught that it was not for them to arrange the terms on which the superior families would visit them. This lesson, she very much feared, they would receive only from herself; she had little hope of Mr. Knightley, none of Mr. Weston.
But she had made up her mind how to meet this presumption so many weeks before it appeared, that when the insult came at last, it found her very differently affected. Donwell and Randalls had received their invitation, and none had come for her father and herself; and Mrs. Weston's accounting for it with "I suppose they will not take the liberty with you; they know you do not dine out," was not quite sufficient. She felt that she should like to have had the power of refusal; and afterwards, as the idea of the party to be assembled there, consisting precisely of those whose society was dearest to her, occurred again and again, she did not know that she might not have been tempted to accept."(Chapter 25)
I love this little incident. Emma means to take their first invitation as an opportunity to insult them for the presumption of aspiring to her company & only regrets that they might not be insulted enough. Then it turns out that as the party approaches she is not invited, & everyone she likes has been invited--& has accepted. Being excluded from society that she would have disdained, makes her want to join in.
I occasionally entertain the idea that many in Highbury may not be as impressed with Emma's superiority as she is.
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