So, to turn to my Focus for this group read in _Emma_, Emma's relationship with Harriet.
At first it is clear that to Emma Harriet is an object for Emma's entertainment and occupation:
Altogether she was quite convinced of Harriet Smith's being exactly the young friend she wanted -- exactly the something which her home required. ... Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. (chpt 3)
This reminds me of picking out future friends in a first day at school.
Emma is always aware that Harriet is no genius and is happy and confident in her ability to talk Harriet into the desired opinions. Emma will mould Harriet's mind for her.
But perhaps I detect the beginnings of some frustration as Mr Elton continues to fail to propose. Emma is positively eager for Mr Elton to finally propose to Harriet in chapter 10:
Emma experienced some disappointment Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday's party at his friend Cole's
And Emma is happy to divert her attention to her sister's family over Christmas:
She hardly wished to have more leisure for them. There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
So then we have the sharp turn around when Mr Elton proposes to Emma and Emma must tell Harriet about it all.
Harriet bore the intelligence very well, blaming nobody, and in every thing testifying such an ingenuousness of disposition and lowly opinion of herself, as must appear with particular advantage at that moment to her friend. Emma was in the humour to value simplicity and modesty to the utmost; and all that was amiable, all that ought to be attaching, seemed on Harriet's side, not her own.
Her tears fell abundantly; but her grief was so truly artless, that no dignity could have made it more respectable in Emma's eyes; and she listened to her and tried to console her with all her heart and understanding -- really for the time convinced that Harriet was the superior creature of the two, and that to resemble her would be more for her own welfare and happiness than all that genius or intelligence could do. (chpt 17).
Here Emma's opinion of Harriet is biased again, not by boredom, but by Emma's own shock at Emma's own failures. All possible hints of Emma's potential boredom are gone away, Emma has a new mission in life, driven by guilt:
Her second duty now, inferior only to her father's claims, was to promote Harriet's comfort, and endeavour to prove her own affection in some better method than by match-making. (chpt 17)
But even this of course eventually passes:
Emma and Harriet had been walking together one morning, and, in Emma's opinion, been talking enough of Mr. Elton for that day. She could not think that Harriet's solace or her own sins required more
And by contrast we see a sudden burst of interest in Jane - though Miss Bates' conversation soon puts an end to it.
Another hint that Emma's admiration for Harriet's character does not last long beyond chapter 17 is in chapter 21: what was the value of Harriet's description? So easily pleased -- so little discerning; -- what signified her praise?
And in chapter 23 Emma goes to the Weston's house for consolation - Harriet is not a companion in that sense.
For all this, Emma's conscious kindness comes through in trying to make Harriet comfortable again about her encouter with the Martins.
So what we have had so far is Harriet as an object for occupation, followed by a brief burst of overfeeling of admiration, and now Harriet as an object for duty. Presumably above all else Harriet continues to be useful as a companion during those times when Mrs Weston is busy elsewhere.
So how will Emma keep her interest going in Harriet during the remaining chapters?