Posted by Nora on July 21, 1997 at 18:32:15:
I respect the perfect combination of Emma versus Harriet. Jane Austen put to work pure genious in establishing these two characters. Emma is so obviously strong (and she has to be with her rank in society). Harriet is so weak that it almost makes me ill when I think of all the nonsense that she will believe. Emma is misguided (hint...Elizabeth), who loves to eat up any and all gossip. Harriet is the last to hear of anything, and the first to believe. Emma was complete when she was with Harriet. She could always walk down the street with anyone and still be respected, but with Harriet she felt additional control. It is true that they were friends and each gave each other joy in their own ways, but to compare them, you have to enter Jane Fairfax (and Jane Austen did this perfectly). Jane Fairfax is indeed Harriet through both parental connections and wealth. However, Emma's dislike for Jane comes from the fact that she cannot control her. She cannot drag her through the mud and wipe her up afterward (only to drag her again). Jane has been with higher society longer than Harriet therefore she has more sense but no more situation. Emma dislikes how Jane follows the perfect social rules, like taxi drivers. Never introduce heated topics when it comes to conversation or you increase your chances of not getting a tip. Don't get me wrong, because it may seem like I'm making Emma look heartless, because I do know how she cares for people (especially Mrs. Weston and her father). I'm just saying that Emma's character is controlling and manipulative (which can be used in both good and bad ways). Harriet however is designed to go into everything blindfolded and hope for the best.