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|I think very differently (long)
Written by Robbin
(4/15/2008 12:48 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Gosh what a shocking crime, penned by Tracy W
] Poor Emma. She devotes her life to keeping her father happy, she is generous and compassionate to the poor, she is polite to Miss Bates, she is even aware of her own faults, and yet gets her attitudes called "very harsh".
I said Emma’s attitude, visiting the Bates is a waste of time, is very harsh which is very specific as I intended it to be. I stand by that comment however I did not say Emma’s “attitudes” are harsh. How do good attitudes or common politeness wipe away her poor attitudes? Even if Emma does her duty more than other people, how does that sanction her neglecting other duties? Does doing her duty in one area permit her to neglect duty in another? Why all the excuses?
] I am not sure what you mean about Emma not understanding the Bateses. I don't see any section where Emma is wrong about them…
I was not talking about Emma being right about whether the Bates had received a letter from Jane or not. I will try to be clearer. I am not talking about Emma’s understanding of particular incidents but that she does not understand or give any leeway to older women whose manners and habits of a lifetime annoy her. Her attitude lacks respect, compassion and patience. She does not value Miss Bates good heart, her gratitude or friendship with her father or even the respect the Bates show towards herself. Emma of course is allowed her own opinions but that does not mean they always do her any credit.
] I am surprised to hear that you think that if Emma was friends with Jane she would not have speculated about Jane's reasons…
What I was saying is if Emma had been Jane’s friend she would not have automatically assumed she had done something dishonorable such as try to seduce Mr. Dixon's affections from his wife. If Harriet was in Jane’s place I don’t think Emma would assume she had done something so dishonorable. Also, Jane did not do anything odd to account for Emma’s unjust speculation; Jane merely came home for a visit and was her usual reserved self which annoyed our heroine. Emma did not want to accept the mundane reasons Jane gives, wishing to visit her relatives and illness, so she lets her imagination loose and depending on how she feels about Jane at the moment the speculations about her skipping the trip to Ireland with her friends casts Jane in an honorable or dishonorable role.
I interpret the passage in Chapter 19 differently than you. I read Emma’s negligence in visiting the Bates as a separate lack from not contributing what she ought to their scanty comforts. I am confused by your interpretation. You seem to be saying it reads—Emma neglects visiting the Bates and then repeats itself by saying she does not visit as she ought to make them comfortable. How does “as not contributing what she ought to the stock of their scanty comforts” translate into not visiting as she ought? As I see it:
They were just approaching the house where lived Mrs. and Miss Bates. She determined to call upon them and seek safety in numbers. There was always sufficient reason for such an attention; Mrs. and Miss Bates loved to be called on, and she knew she was considered by the very few who presumed ever to see imperfection in her, as rather negligent in that respect [visiting],
Emma determined to call upon the Bates (in this instance because she was usually) rather negligent in that respect. Next the conjunction “and” separates her lack of visiting from a second lack, that of not contributing as she ought to the Bates physical comfort:
and as not contributing what she ought to the stock of their scanty comforts.
I think “stock of their scanty comforts” means physical needs like good wholesome food to supplement their poor diet rather than comfort derived from visits. I do not interpret “not contributing what she ought to the stock of their scanty comforts” to mean she contributes nothing material to the Bates rather I think it means she does less than she knows to be right and appropriate in her own heart—this is why I don’t see her generous gift from the porker as proof that Emma always does what she ought. She admits to herself in her heart that she does not—this one instance of charity only proves Emma does what she ought sometimes not all the time. To prove she has changed her ways she has to do what she ought for them all the time. I did not make up the standards Mr. Knightley and Emma hold her to in this instance; they set the bar (of the proper amount of visits and charity) and positioned her somewhat below it not me, I am only pointing it out.
I think this quote about Emma’s negligence of the Bates also relates back to the quote about the poor in Chapter 10; I think it is somewhat of a mirror (opposite) image. From Chapter 10, “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” but Emma is the opposite towards the Bates; she is negligent of the Bates in both areas—mental and physical. She is negligent in visiting them (giving personal attention and kindness, her counsel and patience) and in giving from her purse (contributing to their scanty comforts as she ought.) Emma understands both of these groups need her charity but she treats them very differently and that is what has caught my attention—I want to understand the reason for this disparity in her treatment of the poor and the Bates.
I think the disparity in Emma’s treatment of the poor and the Bates is explained partly by the fact she finds the Bates disagreeable company—annoying and boring but she also seems to despise Miss Bates in particular, “if I thought I should ever be like Miss Bates! so silly -- so satisfied -- so smiling -- so prosing -- so undistinguishing and unfastidious -- and so apt to tell every thing relative to every body about me, I would marry to-morrow.” Emma even mocks her in Chapter 26. Nan Duval’s description of this disparity in treatment makes a lot of sense to me:
] Emma reminds me 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 hierarchical system they choose to adopt.
Emma seems of this ilk, she goes all out for the wretched and she barely has a kind word for Miss Bates. I think Emma is attracted to the unusual and unknown versus the mundane and well known. I think part of the reason Emma is so whole-heartedly committed to helping the poor is because she has a fanciful view of them, “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” which, seems to be saying Emma forgives all their deficiencies because they cannot help it for whatever reason. Since the poor cannot help their deficiencies they deserve all the charity she can give. I also think it unlikely Emma has so much perfect penetration into the poor’s situation since she cannot figure out Robert Martin despite oodles more evidence of his abilities and virtues than she probably gets on the poor during her visits to cottages.
On the other hand, Emma does not forgive the Bates’ their deficiencies, especially Miss Bates. I think because Miss Bates is closer to her own station in life (than the poor) and she believes she should have better sense and more dignity—not act so ridiculous. The Bates are too well known to Emma to romanticize them into deserving objects of her attention as she does for the poor, Harriet and attempts to do for Jane Fairfax in Chapter 20. Emma determines to dislike Jane no longer. She decides her manners are elegant, her appearance beautiful and her history and probable future deserves compassion and respect. She romanticizes Jane to have accidentally fallen in love with Mr. Dixon instead of having seduced his affections from his wife as she first imagined—Emma even wishes there was some young man she could match with Jane. However, when Jane continues to act like the same reserved Jane she remembers all these charitable intentions disappear in a huff of annoyance and jealously.
Why is it anytime I say Emma is in the wrong you counter with the fact she is good to her father—something which I have never denied or disparaged in any way and have in fact praised in several posts. I don’t see how Emma’s goodness in one area prevents her from being negligent in another—do you? I don’t see how being good to her father and ensuring her guests get enough to eat in any way gentles her not doing what she ought for the Bates—do you? If you think Emma’s virtues somehow counters or erases her faults could you please explain how that works?
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