Posted by Kali on June 30, 1997 at 21:58:57:
In reply to Emma as an old maid! posted by kathleen (elder) on June 30, 1997 at 02:34:09
So, suppose Emma does end up an old maid? How would she turn out? She wouldn't be poor, but would she be bored out of her mind? As for having a niece with her, well Isabella might have other thoughts on that.
"If I know myself, Harriet, mine is an active, busy mind, with a great many independent resources; and I do not perceive why I should be more in want of employment at forty or fifty than one-and-twenty..if I draw less, I shall read more...I shall be very well off, with all the children of a sister I love so much to care about. There will be enough of them, in all probability, to supply every sort of sensation that delining life can need."
Easy for a young person to say, I imagine. I greatly doubt that isabella will stay so fertile for such a long period of time as this!
But seriously, ANY speculation as to the appropriateness of her remaining single is pure delusion on her part. I always like to say that this conversation with Harriet, who rightly (in a rare moment of stark and perfectly clear common sense) states that it would be unbelieveable for someone so charming as Emma to remain unmarried, is one of Austen's contrary, ironic clues as to what exactly will end up happening (you know, methinks thou protest too much!).
We know that Emma will grow up and get married. There is no other option. Otherwise, she will become either Mrs. Elton, Miss Bates, or perhaps both. Past a certain age, her know-it-all attitude and attempts at social engineering will cease to be cute. Left to her own devices - without Mr. Knightley - she will either marry the wrong guy and end up as an ignorant, if not foolish, snob, or she will never marry, and become just like our delusional Miss Bates, cartaker of an elderly parent, and diminishing in importance (despite the fact that she has money).
Without Mr. Knightley - whose lesson she cannot fully comprehend lest she admit her love for him, which means she has to marry him - Emma cannot grow up and reach her full potential.