Posted by Laraine on July 21, 1997 at 13:58:38:
In reply to Re: Effective family relationships in Emma posted by Kali on July 20, 1997 at 18:35:33
]...perhaps "effective (healthy, &c.) family RELATIONSHIPS" are what we're lacking in the novel? John and Isabella are good people who love their children, but I can see real tensions flaring up as the childen get older - John pops attitude liberally, and Isabella has a tendency towards smothering, which does not bode well for teenagers...
] Also consider that Isabella and John rarely come to Hartfield...John can't stand Mr. Woodhouse, and Isabella is in no position to intercede for her family, really. She's a second-rate daughter and woman in many ways, especially compared to Emma, who is super-conscientious of her father's needs.
] As for the others - Mr. Woodhouse is kind, but selfish demanding. Mr. Weston overindulges Frank. Mrs. Weston overindulges both Frank and Emma. Harriet and her parents have never met. Jane has no parents, and she feels her loving relationship with the Campbells is improper past a point. Frank has two sets of parents, neither of which he respects. It goes on and on.
] It's odd that Emma, in spite of her faults, is the only truly good daughter...and Mr. Knightley, though he has no kids, the best father figure. Unlike his brother, Mr. knightley is respectful of Emma - his surrogate daughter - and her family. And Emma, in valuing Mr. Knightley and the lessons which he teaches her, is respectful of her surrogate father. Kind of an icky baseline for comparison, I know...but I think that the George Knightleys will produce the healthiest - psychologically - family yet.
I agree with you, Kali (although I'd stick up for John Knightley more and even Isabella a little bit, but that's really not very important).
JA was good at creating families full of complex relationships--almost all of her fathers are "absent" either physically or attitudinally (that's not a word--please forgive :) ), and her mothers often suffer from a lack of understanding (when they are present).
It seems as if she wants to show the flaws in families that might on the surface be thought to be OK (the families, not the flaws). Once we've explored them she gives us hope that one or more new family unit(s) have started to form that will correct (some of) those flaws. It's a learning experience for the characters as well as for the readers.
Maybe she was working some of these things out for herself in her own life (considering what Kathleen and Kali both said about the relationship to Emma and JA's biography.