Posted by Kali on August 15, 1997 at 19:27:08:
In reply to Re: Emma's Role at the Center of the Novel... posted by Laraine on August 15, 1997 at 15:46:58
] ] ...Someone mentioned, I believe, that Austen's great technical feat in this story is making the reader empathize with Emma, her skewed perceptions, and her false morality. Some may even say that Austen even does as well as to induce the reader to LIKE Emma in spite of her despicable philosophies.
] ] Do you think these views do justice to the work? I personally believe that this view doesn't quite describe the situation. I think Austen's main achievement, in successfully maintaining Emma as the conscious center of the novel, is in hoodwinking the reader as to the REAL centers of action and truth in the story. A matter of symantics, true, but depending on which idea you subscribe to, the real focus of the novel changes drastically.
] [big snip]
] ] Does this make sense?
] It makes lots of sense, Kali--you always do.
] I think this question has something in common with our discussion earlier about how much Emma is like Mrs. Elton. I got the feeling that I was more of the first camp you've described ["Some may even say that Austen even does as well as to induce the reader to LIKE Emma in spite of her despicable philosophies."]
Interesting point. You see it as a matter of good faith, I see it as a matter of dangerous potentials? My view has mutated over the last year or so, and now actaully stands somewhere between the two. While I still maintain that there's really nothing to worry about (due to Mr. Knightley's continued influence and frank disclosures), I can't say that the pre-transformation Emma's behaviour induces me to empathize with, like, or make excuses for her hyperbolically lopsided values (except, she's young, she'll snap out of it - see below). Her presumption precludes all three, though I do IDENTIFY with her very much on a basic level.
I can love her in spite of her faults. For me (but less for you?) Austen helps me to like her by making her capable of seeing that she has faults and by making her capable of wanting to be a good person. (I know plenty of people who wouldn't be as nice to their fathers as Emma is, for example).
I don't think we're so far apart considering what you wrote here. I appreciate and like Emma once she understands that she's been a Queen Idiot. And I see her transformation coming, as I hinted above, so it becomes less a matter of "I hate Emma/I love Emma" than "Emma's not finished yet - so I'll withold my opinion." I don't know - maybe it's "familiarity breeds contempt" to a point - I see my bad tendencies in her, magnified, and it sickens me. In addition, it's not clear to me how, without Mr. Knightley, Emma would be sufficiently prepared for her leap to rational adulthood. I greatly doubt that the shock of Frank's deception would be enough.
I've also noticed much more this time than any other the incredible amount of deception that goes on in the novel. All of these characters, even the paragon Mr. Knightley, spends a good deal of time carefully stepping around the truth without actually telling lies. I don't know yet why there's so much of it.
Approach-avoidance...they've all got it! ;-) No one, not even Mr. Knightley, has an smooth time of the truth (ironically enough, the best defense against delusion would come in the pairing of Harriet's artless instincts and Mr. Knightley's sense of honest justice). Emma least of all and on the most basic level - delusion is her mode of operation. Perhaps the message is simple: "Be honest with yourself and others to make your life as easy as possible."
I'll stop now, but I may have to say more later :-)