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|Etiquette as a weapon…
Written by Robbin
(4/15/2008 9:40 p.m.)
After much thinking, she could determine on nothing better, than Harriet's returning the visit; but in a way that, if they had understanding, should convince them that it was to be only a formal acquaintance. She meant to take her in the carriage, leave her at the Abbey Mill, while she drove a little farther, and call for her again so soon, as to allow no time for insidious applications or dangerous recurrences to the past, and give the most decided proof of what degree of intimacy was chosen for the future. …She could think of nothing better: and though there was something in it which her own heart could not approve -- something of ingratitude, merely glossed over -- it must be done, or what would become of Harriet? (Chapter 22)
Emma arranges Harriet’s call on the Martins to be neglectfully short to impress on them Harriet can be nothing but a formal acquaintance causing Harriet pain and being very unjust to the now deserving Martins, not deserving of Harriet of course. All this Emma knows, feels guilty for yet also believes it must be done regardless because her plans for Harriet override any fallout of such behavior in importance.
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. (Chapter 25)
Emma makes up her mind to refuse the Coles’ party invitation to teach them a lesson in knowing their place. Yet when push comes shove and she will be left home while all her friends are having a good time at the party Emma elects to go. In both cases Emma wants to keep people in their place but is it not rather self-centered of Emma to stick to what must be done to teach the Martins their place, denying them respect and earned attention and ignoring Harriet’s feelings but Emma is not quite able to deny herself the fun of a party to teach the Coles their lesson.
It seems to me Emma is getting worse rather than better. Her matchmaking was a disaster and while doing it I did not think she really understood how much she hurt Harriet and Mr. Martin but she knows exactly what people suffer this time around yet she continues. What did Emma learn from the Harriet—Elton disaster? It seems that she finally learned the Martins are not as vulgar as she once thought but it does not stop her from intentionally treating them poorly. Surely there was no real need to have Harriet act with so little gratitude towards the Martins? Why does Emma feel the right or the need to teach others their place? Is there not something mean spirited in wanting to do such a thing? If Mr. Knightley and Poor Miss Taylor (as was) do not feel the need to teach the Coles a lesson why does Emma take it upon herself? (;D)
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