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Austen Novel Read Along is the board for our ongoing discussion of a Jane Austen novel. Beginning with Lady Susan, new portions of the original text are posted every Wednesday. This is a Discussion board with comments welcome and encouraged! No registration is required to join the discussion.
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December 27, 2014
I always get to ask the questions on the best chapters, and today is no exception. In chapter forty-two, we visit Donwell Abbey, and in chapter forty-three, we visit Box Hill. Mr. Knightley is on his best behavior throughout, which is something we can’t say for Frank Churchill, who seems in a particularly selfish mood. These chapters really make it clear that Mr. Knightley is the true hero of the book, and Emma, as usual, makes a few mistakes, but she’s not the only one. Augusta Elton proves herself particularly obnoxious in her desire to secure a place for Jane Fairfax as a governess.
We have talked a lot throughout these discussions about Emma’s character, and at the end of these chapters, she gets a real tongue-lashing from Mr. Knightley. I’m wondering whether you think she deserves it or not. To me, it seems that Frank’s the one who truly deserves the tongue lashing.
Let’s read through a few selections from chapter 43:
When they all sat down it was better; to her taste a great deal better, for Frank Churchill grew talkative and gay, making her his first object. Every distinguishing attention that could be paid, was paid to her. To amuse her, and be agreeable in her eyes, seemed all that he cared for–and Emma, glad to be enlivened, not sorry to be flattered, was gay and easy too, and gave him all the friendly encouragement, the admission to be gallant, which she had ever given in the first and most animating period of their acquaintance; but which now, in her own estimation, meant nothing, though in the judgment of most people looking on it must have had such an appearance as no English word but flirtation could very well describe. “Mr. Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse flirted together excessively.” They were laying themselves open to that very phrase–and to having it sent off in a letter to Maple Grove by one lady, to Ireland by another. Not that Emma was gay and thoughtless from any real felicity; it was rather because she felt less happy than she had expected. She laughed because she was disappointed; and though she liked him for his attentions, and thought them all, whether in friendship, admiration, or playfulness, extremely judicious, they were not winning back her heart. She still intended him for her friend.
“How much I am obliged to you,” said he, “for telling me to come to-day!–If it had not been for you, I should certainly have lost all the happiness of this party. I had quite determined to go away again.”
“Yes, you were very cross; and I do not know what about, except that you were too late for the best strawberries. I was a kinder friend than you deserved. But you were humble. You begged hard to be commanded to come.”
“Don’t say I was cross. I was fatigued. The heat overcame me.”
“It is hotter to-day.”
“Not to my feelings. I am perfectly comfortable to-day.”
“You are comfortable because you are under command.”
“Perhaps I intended you to say so, but I meant self-command. You had, somehow or other, broken bounds yesterday, and run away from your own management; but to-day you are got back again–and as I cannot be always with you, it is best to believe your temper under your own command rather than mine.”
“It comes to the same thing. I can have no self-command without a motive. You order me, whether you speak or not. And you can be always with me. You are always with me.”
“Dating from three o’clock yesterday. My perpetual influence could not begin earlier, or you would not have been so much out of humour before.”
“Three o’clock yesterday! That is your date. I thought I had seen you first in February.”
“Your gallantry is really unanswerable. But (lowering her voice)–nobody speaks except ourselves, and it is rather too much to be talking nonsense for the entertainment of seven silent people.”
“I say nothing of which I am ashamed,” replied he, with lively impudence. “I saw you first in February. Let every body on the Hill hear me if they can. Let my accents swell to Mickleham on one side, and Dorking on the other. I saw you first in February.” And then whispering–“Our companions are excessively stupid. What shall we do to rouse them? Any nonsense will serve. They shall talk. Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who, wherever she is, presides) to say, that she desires to know what you are all thinking of?”
Some laughed, and answered good-humouredly. Miss Bates said a great deal; Mrs. Elton swelled at the idea of Miss Woodhouse’s presiding; Mr. Knightley’s answer was the most distinct.
“Is Miss Woodhouse sure that she would like to hear what we are all thinking of?”
“Oh! no, no”–cried Emma, laughing as carelessly as she could–“Upon no account in the world. It is the very last thing I would stand the brunt of just now. Let me hear any thing rather than what you are all thinking of. I will not say quite all. There are one or two, perhaps, (glancing at Mr. Weston and Harriet,) whose thoughts I might not be afraid of knowing.”
“It is a sort of thing,” cried Mrs. Elton emphatically, “which I should not have thought myself privileged to inquire into. Though, perhaps, as the Chaperon of the party–I never was in any circle–exploring parties–young ladies–married women–“
Her mutterings were chiefly to her husband; and he murmured, in reply,
“Very true, my love, very true. Exactly so, indeed–quite unheard of–but some ladies say any thing. Better pass it off as a joke. Every body knows what is due to you.”
“It will not do,” whispered Frank to Emma; “they are most of them affronted. I will attack them with more address. Ladies and gentlemen–I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse to say, that she waives her right of knowing exactly what you may all be thinking of, and only requires something very entertaining from each of you, in a general way. Here are seven of you, besides myself, (who, she is pleased to say, am very entertaining already,) and she only demands from each of you either one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated–or two things moderately clever–or three things very dull indeed, and she engages to laugh heartily at them all.”
“Oh! very well,” exclaimed Miss Bates, “then I need not be uneasy. ‘Three things very dull indeed.’ That will just do for me, you know. I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth, shan’t I? (looking round with the most good-humoured dependence on every body’s assent)–Do not you all think I shall?”
Emma could not resist.
“Ah! ma’am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me–but you will be limited as to number–only three at once.”
This was Emma’s sin, and here is how Mr. Knightley reacted:
While waiting for the carriage, she found Mr. Knightley by her side. He looked around, as if to see that no one were near, and then said,
“Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?–Emma, I had not thought it possible.”
Emma recollected, blushed, was sorry, but tried to laugh it off.
“Nay, how could I help saying what I did?–Nobody could have helped it. It was not so very bad. I dare say she did not understand me.”
“I assure you she did. She felt your full meaning. She has talked of it since. I wish you could have heard how she talked of it–with what candour and generosity. I wish you could have heard her honouring your forbearance, in being able to pay her such attentions, as she was for ever receiving from yourself and your father, when her society must be so irksome.”
“Oh!” cried Emma, “I know there is not a better creature in the world: bt you must allow, that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately blended in her.”
“They are blended,” said he, “I acknowledge; and, were she prosperous, I could allow much for the occasional prevalence of the ridiculous over the good. Were she a woman of fortune, I would leave every harmless absurdity to take its chance, I would not quarrel with you for any liberties of manner. Were she your equal in situation–but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case. She is poor; she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and, if she live to old age, must probably sink more. Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her–and before her niece, too–and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.–This is not pleasant to you, Emma–and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,–I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.”
While they talked, they were advancing towards the carriage; it was ready; and, before she could speak again, he had handed her in. He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted, and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern. She had not been able to speak; and, on entering the carriage, sunk back for a moment overcome–then reproaching herself for having taken no leave, making no acknowledgment, parting in apparent sullenness, she looked out with voice and hand eager to shew a difference; but it was just too late. He had turned away, and the horses were in motion. She continued to look back, but in vain; and soon, with what appeared unusual speed, they were half way down the hill, and every thing left far behind. She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed–almost beyond what she could conceal. ever had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of this representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!
Time did not compose her. As she reflected more, she seemed but to feel it more. She never had been so depressed. Happily it was not necessary to speak. There was only Harriet, who seemed not in spirits herself, fagged, and very willing to be silent; and Emma felt the tears running down her cheeks almost all the way home, without being at any trouble to check them, extraordinary as they were.
August 14, 2015
Thought I would try to dash off just a couple of thoughts between classes while my son is working on an assignment. 🙂
No, I don’t think Knightley overreacted. I think that Emma’s response was just as it should be. I don’t think she knew what she had done, and Knightley telling her was to her benefit. He did not do it publically. He made certain they were in private before he spoke — which shows a care for her feelings and an understanding that he might have known she would be distressed by what he had to say? maybe? I think that this situation shows the care that one character has for the other. If it had been Mrs. Elton or Harriet or some other person who had made such comments as Emma did, would Knightley be reprimanding them? If not, why not? I have said on many occasions to my children and to those that I have taught in various classes — If I did not care about you, I would not care about how you are behaving, but because I do care for/love you, I desire to see you be a person of integrity (or whatever term might be necessary to the discussion). I think the same is true here for Knightley. It is due to his care for Emma that he speaks to her. He does not wish to see her become a Frank Churchill. She in turn might not have responded in the same fashion to someone else pointing out her error to her. His disappointment/disapproval hit her harder than if it had come from someone else like Mr. Weston (although, had it been Mrs. Weston, the response might have been the same). Emma cares what Knightley thinks of her, and I don’t think that it is from a place of selfish ambition or need to be seen as wonderful by all — his opinion matters.
A thought I had while listening was about Frank’s arrival. He was completely out of sorts — which yes, could have been due to the weather but could it not also have been from meeting Jane on the way and hearing that Jane’s friend was going to push her into taking a position and therefore “ruining” the plans that Jane and Frank have?
December 27, 2014
Here’s a first! I am in total agreement with Leenie. Not only do I agree with her assessment that Knightley’s reprimand is fair, I also think it more importantly indicates the degree of his love for Emma. There can be no doubt that he knows his feeling now. You can hear the anguish in his words in “Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do…” and “but I must, I will,–I will tell you truths while I can.” He believes the performance Frank and Emma have put on: believes them in love. And yes, Emma puts more credence in Mr. Knightley’s opinion than anyone else’s, an indication of her own, yet to be discovered feelings.
I also think Leenie nailed the reason for Frank’s bad temper. I also think it likely that Jane gave him a scold for some of his other conduct.
Regarding this as a low point, I think Emma has one more before her that’s even worse, but this is certainly the lowest we’ve seen her since Mr. Elton’s proposal, and yes, I think it is a more upsetting moment for Emma than that unfortunate carriage ride.
I can’t close without dwelling on the last line:
Happily it was not necessary to speak. There was only Harriet, who seemed not in spirits herself, fagged, and very willing to be silent; and Emma felt the tears running down her cheeks almost all the way home, without being at any trouble to check them, extraordinary as they were.
I always wonder just what it was that put Harriet of all people in a bad mood. Any speculations? I think there are a lot of possibilities.
August 14, 2015
Alexa Adams said
Here’s a first! I am in total agreement with Leenie. Not only do I agree with her assessment that Knightley’s reprimand is fair, I also think it more importantly indicates the degree of his love for Emma.
Well, will wonders never cease? Haha! 🙂
And I had not thought about Harriet’s mood there. Love that there is more to contemplate. 🙂
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