The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2016 Group Reads - Archives > Emma - Vol 3, Ch III - Ch XI

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message 1: by Rose (last edited Jun 12, 2016 10:47AM) (new)

Rose Rocha dos Santos (roserocha) | 42 comments Hi, everyone!

This week's reading is about: Vol 3, Chapter III through Chapter XI

Or, if you're using another version of the book: Chapters 39 to 47

From chapter XI:
"Oh! had she never brought Harriet forward! Had she left her where she ought, and where he had told her she ought!— Had she not, with a folly which no tongue could express, prevented her marrying the unexceptionable young man who would have made her happy and respectable in the line of life to which she ought to belong all would have been safe; none of this dreadful sequel would have been. ...
If Harriet, from being humble, were grown vain, it was her doing too."


Do you think Emma did more bad than good to Harriet?


message 2: by Amy (new)

Amy Walterscheid I would say yes. Poor Harriet was bullied into giving up the man she really liked, and then persuaded another man liked her when he didn't.
It's interesting that Mr Knightley criticized Emma for trying to lift Harriet above her station. That seems like a bigger issue than toying with her emotions.


message 3: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
I have to say I am struggling with the class consciousness of this novel, more than in other Austen novels. I am uncomfortable with the obvious judgement of people by their station, and the fact that Austen portrays those who are trying to rise above their station in the worst light i.e. the Eltons.

I find it hard to figure out who is where in the social hierarchy, and why. Certainly the Eltons and the Coles seem to be in some murky middle ground-and don't seem to quite get the social niceties. Why are Jane Fairfax and Mrs Weston, governesses past and future, considered as social equals? Do they come from a better class but lack money? Clearly Knightly, Emma, Frank Churchill consider themselves above the Eltons and the Coles and well above Harriet Smith, and yet they are quite happy to socialize with them on apparently equal footing, and yet Emma feels that Mr Elton has presumed too much when he asks her to marry him.

I agree with Amy-the worst thing was to separate Harriet from a man she clearly liked very much, and with whose family and position in life she seemed clearly very compatible.


message 4: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Emma did not do Harriet a favour by making such a fuss over her at the beginning of the book. Emma has been growing up and getting more thoughtful during the course of the book and she may have realized her mistake. Harriet has not changed. She is still the same thoughtless girl.
I have just read the chapter in which Mr. Knightly suspects that Frank and Jane are interested in each other, and he doesn't want Emma's feelings to be hurt. He doesn't know her true feelings for Frank( she is not in love with him) and she doesn't believe he is correct in his assessment of the Jane/Frank relationship.


message 5: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
I found an excerpt, when Emma is visiting Donwell Abbey for the first time in a while, to show what I've been bothered by:

She felt all the honest pride and complacency which her alliance with the present and future proprietor could fairly warrant, as she viewed the respectable size and style of the building, its suitable, becoming, characteristic situation, low and sheltered-its ample gardens stretching down to meadows washed by a stream, of which the Abbey, with all the old neglect of prospect, had scarcely a sight-and its abundance of timber in rows and avenues, which neither fashion nor extravagance had rooted up.-The house was larger than Hatfield, and totally unlike it, covering a good deal of ground, rambling and irregular, with many comfortable, and one or two handsome rooms.-It was just what it ought to be, and looked what it was-and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding. Underlining mine-what does that even mean?

All the rest of Austen's novels seem to support some moving through society, judging people on character rather than station, and often seem to mock the excessive admiration of titles and position. Emma seems to do the opposite, and perhaps that is what has always made me somewhat uncomfortable with it (well, that and the scene where Emma mocks Miss Bates).


message 6: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Frances, I can see what you mean by questioning the meaning of gentility or put in another way, "good" families. The concept of "quality" due to your family standing was part of the society of the time, so Jane Austen seems to be mirroring society in this novel, that is the prejudices and opinions of those around her.
I have just finished the strawberry picking chapter and find Mrs. Elton more annoying than ever. She shows her lack of manners by calling Mr. Knightly "Knightly" only. I am glad that Emma helps Jane get away from Mrs. E., who seems intent on getting her a position even though Jane does not want one yet.


message 7: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2116 comments Mod
Harriet was illegitimate, which automatically lowered her in society. Emma probably thought she was being broadminded in taking on Harriet as a friend.

At the strawberry picking, I love how Austen depicts Mrs Elton's monologue through it's various stages. Also the insult that Emma just can't resist throwing at Miss Bates is quite realistic, as is her later contrition. She is used to saying witty things and also thinks Miss Bates won't really "get it". But she does have loyalty to the people she grew up around. However, she also wants Mr Knightley to know that she is making an effort to be kind to Miss Bates the next day.

It's also brilliant how we as readers go along assuming, like Emma, that Harriet was falling for Frank, when that was never the case.


message 8: by Brit (new)

Brit | 80 comments Rose wrote: "Do you think Emma did more bad than good to Harriet?."

Harriet needed a friend and Emma stepped in as that friend. Emma was misguided in her advice, but she was a constant friend. It hurt Harriet to be led to reject Robert Martin. As events unfolded, Emma learned from her mistakes and became a 'better' friend who ceased in her overt meddling.

What Harriet really needed was to learn to make decisions on her own. Jane Fairfax shows us how that could be done. I found her management of Mrs. Elton quite a contrast. Emma does teach Harriet a little of this when she forces or suggest Harriet be guided by the actions of man she highly admires.


message 9: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Brit, I agre that Harriet needs to make her own decisions about her life and to actually take an active part in her life-not reactive. She has limited options in her life but there is nothing to prevent her from renewing her friendship with the Martin sisters.


message 10: by Rose (last edited Jun 13, 2016 07:44AM) (new)

Rose Rocha dos Santos (roserocha) | 42 comments Frances wrote: "I agree with Amy-the worst thing was to separate Harriet from a man she clearly liked very much, and with whose family and position in life she seemed clearly very compatible. "

And also prevented her of being in an ambiance where she would feel accepted...


message 11: by Rose (last edited Jun 13, 2016 07:56AM) (new)

Rose Rocha dos Santos (roserocha) | 42 comments Frances wrote: "I found an excerpt, when Emma is visiting Donwell Abbey for the first time in a while, to show what I've been bothered by..."

Maybe that's why Jane Austen referred to Emma as: "... a heroine whom no one but myself (Austen) will much like"


message 12: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I don't dislike Emma, but I can't warm up to her. I find myself appreciating the writing and some of the wicked comments Jane makes about her characters, but the only character to whom I really react is Mrs. Elton, and that is in a negative way. But she does add some zest to the book.


message 13: by Brit (new)

Brit | 80 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I don't dislike Emma, but I can't warm up to her. I find myself appreciating the writing and some of the wicked comments Jane makes about her characters, but the only character to whom I really rea..."

Some people are interested in three people only; me, myself and I. Mrs. Elton seems to be one of those and that is why we react so negatively towards her.

She is essential to the story as she brings out the character of Jane Fairfax so well. Also, she allows us to better see Emma in the way Jane Austen brings out the similarities and differences between Emma and Mrs. Elton; both tries to influence and care for others, but only Emma knows when to back off.


message 14: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I especially appreciate the way Emma rescued Jane from Mrs. E. during the strawberry picking outing.


message 15: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I wonder what has caused Jane to accept the position with Mrs. Elton's friend.
Did she misunderstand the silly flirting between Frank and Emma after the disappointing Box Hill expedition?
Emma has taken Mr. Knigntly's admonitions regarding her behaviour to Miss Bates seriously and also realizes that she could have been a better friend to Jane.


message 16: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Well, this section created too much tension for me to stop, and so now I've finished the book... but I won't tell what I know. : )


message 17: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
Janice, I plan on finishing it soon too. I am going to take notes so that I don't reveal any details of the plot. I want to know what is going to happen!


message 18: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
I also finished, but as much because I was running into too much difficulty juggling several reads at once than for the tension!


message 19: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I know what you mean by juggling several reads!


message 20: by Amy (new)

Amy Walterscheid Although the class separation bothered me, I think it's probably a more realistic representation of society then Austen's other works where the heroines were often uperly mobile.


message 21: by Brit (last edited Jun 14, 2016 08:28AM) (new)

Brit | 80 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I wonder what has caused Jane to accept the position with Mrs. Elton's friend.
Did she misunderstand the silly flirting between Frank and Emma after the disappointing Box Hill expedition?
Emma has ..."


Frank Churchill's flirtation with Emma had been going on for a long time and Jane knew it was a cover. But he took it too far, so there probably was some jealousy of Emma. We see that Jane would not accept Emma's company or any of her gifts.

She was also possibly sick of the Dixon insinuation and wanted that stopped.

Jane was getting disolutioned with their situation. There seemed to be no end in sight to the secrecy of their engagement. All of this, plus a quarrel between them, I think pushed her over the edge. So she bailed out.

I do not think Mrs. Elton finally convinced her to accept the position, but rather that that the position was there and she made use of it. Jane has withstood Mrs. Elton's incessant insistence before and I am sure did not accept it involuntary.


message 22: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I agree that Jane must have been in a very confused state of mind after witnessing the flirting, and she must have felt especially vulnerable and upset to even think about accepting a situation- from anybody, but especially from the bossy Mrs. Elton.


message 23: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4467 comments Mod
Frances wrote: "I also finished, but as much because I was running into too much difficulty juggling several reads at once than for the tension!"

I gave up when the struggle became too stressful. It was a reread for me.


message 24: by Brit (new)

Brit | 80 comments We also find another parallel story where Mrs. Elton attempts to boss Mr. Knightley around. She offers her services as a hostess for Mr. Knightley. Like Jane, you cannot walk over him either.

Only one woman can serve as a hostess in his home, he says. It is interesting that Mrs. Elton suspects/suggests Mrs. Weston and not Emma. Is that jealousy of Emma!? Mr. Knightley is very firm in telling her that no, it is the future Mrs. Knightley and until she exists, he takes care of his own entertaining.

You would think she would learn, but continues to speak for Mr. Knightley and others. At Box Hill, she declines the game:

“Pass us, if you please, Mr. Churchill. Pass Mr. E., Knightley, Jane, and myself. We have nothing clever to say—not one of us.”


message 25: by Veronique (new)

Veronique Amy wrote: "Although the class separation bothered me, I think it's probably a more realistic representation of society then Austen's other works where the heroines were often uperly mobile."

I'd say that all the class talk is Emma's prejudiced views, not the narrator's or indeed Austen's. Emma, to me, sounds more petulant in these like a child, but she is having to face these and see the error of her ways. Her behaviour to Miss Bates, and then Knightley's remonstrances, highlight that due to her position she has a social responsibility I think she didn't see before. She finally empathises with Miss Bates' situation, and how she is not that 'bad', to the contrary when contrasted with Mrs Elton. There is still a bit more of learning to be done by Emma, but she is getting there.

Yep - have read it all - couldn't wait... But being careful not to divulge anything :0)


message 26: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 613 comments Veronique wrote, “I’d say that all the class talk is Emma’s prejudiced views, not the narrator’s or indeed Austen’s.”

I agree with this completely. I’ve been noticing how often she uses elegant and elegance, or the lack thereof, to define people. It’s like a talisman for those who enjoy her approval and a stick she uses to beat those she regards as inferior. Knightley seems to use only character as a judge of others.


message 27: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Veronique wrote: "I'd say that all the class talk is Emma's prejudiced views, not the narrator's or indeed Austen's.."


I agree with this too. Jane Austen recognises that Emma is something of a snob (and this is one of the reasons why she thought her readers might not think Emma very likeable.)

However, Emma's views on class and blood merely reflect those that were widely prevalent at the time (and still are in some sections of English society); so I think Austen is gently pointing out the folly of this type of blind prejudice to her readers, while not expecting either them or Emma to completely change their views.


message 28: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments Oh, that's very good. I definitely see Emma in a different light this time around. I love the way you've suggested that Austen is using her to gently point out the blindly classist prejudices of her readers. It's an easy trap when one is young and has limited exposure to different bodies of thought. And I do like the way we see Emma grow as she is forced to confront her own flawed assumptions.


message 29: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1822 comments Mod
I'm still not convinced that it was written as a criticism-I don't see Emma learning to be more accepting of her social inferiors as equals, (view spoiler)

This class distinction was clearly the order of the day, but I think Austen was much more clearly flouting this in her other works with unexpected matches (P&P, MP) or people bettering their lot in life through work (Persuasion). Emma appears if anything to reinforce it, and for this I am disappointed.

Please try to convince me that I'm wrong-Austen was for many years my favourite author and I still love her work, I'm just disappointed with this aspect of Emma.


message 30: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 613 comments I agree with you, Frances, although Emma does travel some distance in the direction of taking people on their merits. But part of the problem is that (view spoiler) It’s all a little Arcadian.


message 31: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2803 comments Mod
I think that Jane Austen was a product of her time in regards to social classes. That is always one of the major difficulties I have when reading certain literature-- the stratification of society and the implied inferiority of certain social classes. This books takes place principally in the vicinity of Emma's home and the flattery she receives from those around her causes her to make some of the mistakes she has made, especially regarding Harriet.


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