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|Virtues do call for softer judgment of sins
Written by Tracy W
(4/15/2008 4:41 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I think very differently (long), penned by Robbin
Secondly, I do think that Emma's virtues do call for softer judgment of her sins. To live a life in which one always does one's duty, immediately, with the correct emotional attitude, calls for extreme willpower of the sort I only expect of saints. For mere mortals, I think that if a person sacrifices in one area, us onlookers should be rather less harsh of their failings in others. This does not wipe away Emma's poor attitudes, or sanction her neglecting other duties, or permit her to neglect her duty, or prevent her from being negligent, or whatever other word you want to apply, but it does call on us onlookers to be less harsh than you are. If a woman who devotes her days to her aging and difficult, if loveable, father is reluctant to spend her free time calling on a woman she finds boring, then that is a very different matter to a woman who neglects both neighbours and her father. This is how Emma is gentled for not doing what she ought for the Bates.
[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 does value Miss Bates' good heart and her friendship with her father:
These were the ladies whom Emma found herself very frequently able to collect; and happy was she, for her father's sake, in the power; though, as far as she was herself concerned, it was no remedy for the absence of Mrs. Weston (chpt 3)
You keep saying that Emma does not understand the Bates, but I think you might be a bit more likely to be successful in convincing me if you cited a case of her not understanding them.
I agree that Emma lacks respect, compassion and patience for the Bateses. You go beyond that though in your statements.
I don't see any sign that Emma lacks material generosity to the Bateses, indeed I see the opposite in her gift of the porker and her helping her father's friends at supper. So I read Emma as failing to contribute to their stock of scanty comforts as simply referring to failing to visit them as often as she should. She is failing to contribute to their social comforts, not their material ones. JA in that passage talks only about Emma's dislike of visiting the Bateses, not any dislike of giving them food. When the question of the gift of the leg of pork is discussed in chapter 21 there is no mention of Emma thinking that she knows she is doing less than she ought.
As you know, I have a very different reading of the "no romantic expectations" wording to you, I think Emma is rational and sensible in her view of the poor, not fanciful.
I do not see any sign that Emma thinks the Bateses can help their deficiences, there is no point I know of where she says that Miss Bates can help being what she is.
]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. ]
Well firstly, perhaps if Jane and Emma were friends, it is possible that Emma might have had a strong reason to assume that Jane would have done something dishonourable. If we get to know someone better, they do not always turn out to be honourable.
Secondly, Emma does not assume, she suspects.
The words "suspicion", "highly probable", "suggested" are not the same as the word "assumed".
Thirdly, I think it is too early to say yet if Emma was right or wrong in suspecting Jane of having some other reasons to come to Highbury. We know very little of Jane at this stage in the story, I do not think you have any basis to assume that Jane could never do anything dishonourable or could only have the most mundane reasons for doing things. Emma does dishonourable things, why not Jane?
To summarise, I do not think that Emma's goodness in one area erases her faults. But I do think it gentles her not doing what she ought for the Bateses, and I do think her virtues make a call on us to be less harsh in our judgments of Emma than you are.
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