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Written by BarbaraB
(4/19/2008 4:52 p.m.)
So much focus on discussing 'visiting' during this group read has made me aware of how much 'the etiquette of visiting' is weaved throughout the plot. Visits and one's duty in regards to them are highlighted in this novel in a way that you don't see in JA's other work---indeed they are an integral part of what is going on. Visits or the lack of them, as the case may be, has prompted arguments as well as caused hurt and/or offense.
The next visit causes Emma's dilemma and begins this way:
1. Harriet is distressed by a sudden meeting with Mr. Martin, the first since her refusal of him.
The problem is that Emma must tread a fine line. She feels that the visit will do Harriet good and, as good manners requires the visit to be reciprocated, why not? On the other hand, Emma is fearful of Harriet reestablishing her acquaintance with the Martins, thereby undoing everything she has done to sever the relationship. Finally, unable to come up with anything better, the visit is settled upon. To get the message across to the Martins that this is only to be a formal acquaintance, Emma will take Harriet herself and the visit will last only fifteen minutes. According to the sources I consulted, fifteen minutes was the minimum amount of time a visit could last without giving offense.
Emma picks Harriet up and has judged correctly that more time might have been 'dangerous' to a renewal of acquaintance because right about the time she arrives, the Martin's initial coolness has begun to warm toward Harriet. As it turns out Emma has actually picked Harriet up in fourteen minutes. Was this on purpose, or coincidence? Would Emma have a watch or timepiece of some sort? Even though the Martins obviously couldn't help but notice if was a short visit, I wonder if they knew it was a minute short of propriety and considered it a snub even though only a minute shy.
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