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Emma Chapters 3 & 4
Emma Volume I, Chapters III & IV: Quotes, Questions, and Conversation.
July 10, 2016
12:55 PM
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So, what do you think? Emma can be pretty useful, can’t she?

What’s your opinion of her so far? How about Harriet? And Mr Woodhouse?

Dare I mention Mr Martin and Mr Elton 😉 ?

If you’ve read ’Emma’ before, have you discovered anything new this time?

Let’s have a chat, I can’t wait to hear what you’re thinking!

July 11, 2016
6:48 PM
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I started re-reading Emma last month, so I was excited to see it coming up for the next read-along. But can I make a painful admission? The further I get into the book, the less I like her! About the only redeeming quality I’ve been able to see so far in her is her devotion to her father. I’m attracted to Mr. Knightley, but I really wish Emma would keep her meddling to herself.

The following person says thank you to Elaine Owen for this post.:

Alexa Adams, Joana Starnes
July 12, 2016
11:40 AM
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Hi Elaine! Thanks for joining in!

Did you read my intro from last week (https://austenauthors.net/read-…..ters-i-ii/)? In it I argue that Austen wants the reader to dislike Emma at this point. I’d love to hear your opinion on it. 

She is really insufferable in these chapters, especially 4. 

“He is very plain, undoubtedly—remarkably plain:—but that is nothing compared with his entire want of gentility. I had no right to expect much, and I did not expect much; but I had no idea that he could be so very clownish, so totally without air. I had imagined him, I confess, a degree or two nearer gentility.”

Ugh! I just want to slap her (Lady Susan flashbacks anyone?). In chapter 5, Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston have their excellent conversation to settle our ruffled feathers. Austen knows just how to play us. 

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Joana Starnes
July 13, 2016
10:30 AM
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Leenie
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I can’t say I have developed a liking for any characters yet….not a one.  Well, perhaps Mr. Martin seems the most likeable at present. I don’t want to slap Emma….I wish for her to go sit in her guilded tower and look down her nose at one and all and leave me alone.  🙂  I found it a chore to do the reading and if it were not JA’s work and just a book I had picked up from the library, I would return it, unread about now….well after peeking at the ending…one must always peek at ending even of books you don’t like before you return them. 🙂  

I find at this point in the story I am very disappointed in Mrs. Weston.  She seems to have schooled Emma in many subjects but had neglected the most important.  I do find I feel a bit sorry for Miss Woodhouse since she has been locked up with few friends all her life and has to live with such a silly father. But her snobbery is beginning to lessen that pity. We’ll see if Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston can soothe my feelings…but I fear I am a good deal like Darcy and once my good opinion is lost…well, it will be hard to regain.  

July 13, 2016
12:02 PM
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Thanks, lovely ladies, for your amazing comments (and sorry, Leenie, can’t figure out why but there was no button to click to say thanks to your post, which is a huge shame because I loved it!! Especially the good opinion once lost… and the peeking at the ending 😀 )

It’s amazing what great job Jane Austen does with making us dislike Emma intensely to begin with. She really has nothing going for her at first, and not for a fair while yet, except the ability to appreciate Mrs Weston, who’s a darling, and to put up with her father’s moody selfishness.

I can easily see why none of the characters seem engaging yet, Leenie, but hang on, Mr Knightley hasn’t made much of an appearance yet. And his brother, for all his secondary role, is a pretty good egg too. And dear Miss Bates. Could chew your ear off, but not a bad bone in her body.

LOL Alexa re Lady Susan and wanting to give Emma a good slap, she really acts like she deserves it. Spoilt and full of herself, and even more dangerously so because she’s mean and supercillious without being as obvious with it as, say, Miss Bingley. And Harriet is so puppy-like I want to give her a good shake too.

Thanks for reading and joining the conversation, like a yummy delight Austen is always best shared!

July 13, 2016
4:15 PM
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I know I’m the one who brought up physical violence in regards to our heroine, but now I feel the need to defend her. She is an excellent hostess and brings pleasure to all who attend her evening party, including her father, for whose benefit she is going to the trouble. She is sincere in her devotion to those who comprise her world. And what a world it is! Highbury is as vivid a place as you will find in literature. This novel is so entirely real. The reason why Emma as a character, love her or hate her, is so phenomenal is because she is so realistic: a perfectly believable mix of human flaws and capabilities. Austen doesn’t do anything to endear us to her, but she lays the foundation for our empathy. We have all acted arrogantly and rued the consequences. We have all meddled where we should not. In this, we have all been Emma, at least at some moment in our lives. 

July 13, 2016
8:00 PM
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I’m surprised to see such universal dislike of Emma so far. I’ve read the book several times now, although this is the first time in a few years, and I’ve always felt her flaws were so very minor and ordinary. It’s the difference between what kept me going back to Emma versus P&P countless times.

What I’m noticing the most this time is that I think Emma doesn’t know any other way to show she cares but to chide and direct. Her father does it to everyone he knows and Mrs. Weston, while Emma says so much about them being friends and she clearly was a surrogate mother, was first and foremost a governess- a teacher. Knowing that Jane Fairfax comes into the mix later on and is slated to become a governess, added with the mixture of Harriet having lately been a student at Mrs. Goddard’s school, makes me think Austen is on to something with this continual theme.

Additionally, Emma makes much of education being the difference between the Miss Martins and one who Mr. Martin might marry. I know middle class morality is on the rise in this era and it was all about education being a means to raise one up and lessen their baser instincts. 

In short, everyone seems to focus Emma’s class-consciousness, but I think she’s actually rather forward thinking. She does allow for social mobility and in a way that doesn’t become mainstream for several decades. Love or hate the Victorian morality so many good social reforms came out of it. Emma’s comments about Mr. Martin being unworthy of her notice, to me, sound more like she can’t be of use to him and while she might want him to have a bit more education, neither does his station in life “predispose” him to certain vices the era assigned to the poorer ranks. 

I’ll admit, I like Emma. And I do feel akin to her. I”m sure plenty would say that I’ve meddled or been to conceited for my own good. And, like Emma, my intellect has always been flattered–except by a few who still respect me and enjoy a healthy debate. I’ve always tended to not care much for the opinion of the world at large, and instead worried about a select few whose good opinion meant the world to me. As Alexa said, Emma feels very real to me. 

Oh, two more things. One, I noticed that Mrs. Goddard is the one who opened the way between Harriet and Emma. I hadn’t really noticed that before. Two, for the last few years I’ve been convinced Emma is the Regency era version of Desperate Housewives. She’s bored to death in her confining life in Highbury! 

July 13, 2016
9:10 PM
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Many of the flaws and virtues either decried or lauded in Emma can also be found in many other Austen characters.  For instance, a good hostess who conducts parties that please could be ascribed to Miss Bingley, Mrs. Phillips, or Mrs Bennet, to name three.  Emma’s devotion for those in her life who are important to her and whom she loves is one of the many qualities I love about Fanny Price.  Emma’s arrogance can be found in Sir William, Darcy, Caroline, Lady Catherine…shall I go on? 🙂 Shall we meddle with a view of having the best in mind for our dear friend who can do better like Lady Russel? Or promote a match like Mrs. Bennet?  This is what is awesome about all of Jane Austen’s characters — there are bits of many in us and those around us. We can relate them either by seeing something in ourselves or the people with whom we interact.  That is great character development!  However, one isolated trait does not make us or someone we know necessarily an Emma….not even two…what makes Emma, Emma is the combination of traits in varying amounts, acted upon based on upbringing and beliefs, combined with situation in life, and her view of herself. Considering all of that, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I have not been an Emma.  Have I meddled where I shouldn’t…quite possibly…to arrange a marriage or break up a couple….most certainly not! Have I ever displayed arrogance?  I am human, so yes.  Do I feel devotion to my family and friends…without a doubt.  Do I plan excellent parties….I try to avoid parties (I did mention a tendency to be Darcy, right?) but when needed, my friends do enjoy themselves at my parties…and the kids at school always liked the parties I oversaw as faculty advisor for student council.  However, I am not an Emma….do in large part, I would suspect, to my view of myself (think Fanny Price here…very not Emma in self esteem 🙂 )  

Rose, what you said about the governess and education made me think for a moment about the Bennets.  Again with my Lydia comparison, I suppose 🙂 But isn’t it interesting here in this story how much emphasis is placed on education of girls (and others, but girls in particular) and in Pride and Prejudice the heroine is “uneducated”? 

I have some thoughts on the Emma liking to be useful thing, too, but perhaps I will reserve them for now…or maybe not.  Is her usefulness something that feeds her ego? Is it something that she uses to feel superior? Is it something that brings her praise, and therefore delight? Or is it because she cares and would continue to be useful without recognition?  I will reserve forming a decided opinion just yet. I will give her time to redeem herself, if she can. 🙂 

July 14, 2016
2:13 AM
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Awesome discussion, ladies!

Rose brings up social mobility in Emma, a subject that has been addressed at length by academics because it is fundamental to this book. The world of Highbury is extremely mobile. Emma is herself promoting it, in her adoption of Harriet (I’m still laughing at your pet comment in the intro – Joana). The Bates are falling in their worldly status, while Mrs. Goddard, through hard work and industry, has improved hers. Highbury is not far from London. Merchants like the Coles, who we will know more of soon, are buying homes in the area. Like Mr. Bingley, they are pursuing a well-trod path away from the shop. Yet amidst all this, Emma can be rigidly stagnant in her views, especially when it serves her purpose (she is an excellent rationalizer). This quote illustrates her mind so perfectly well. 

“The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other. But a farmer can need none of my help, and is, therefore, in one sense, as much above my notice as in every other he is below it.”

What she says is true, yet it is also a lie. It accurately depicts the society in which she lives, but it doesn’t reflect her true sentiments on the subject, rather her agenda: putting down the Martins. She is obviously interested in them. More so now because of Harriet, but as Mr. Knightley thinks and speaks highly of the family they were already subject to her notice. This quote also begs the question of why Harriet should now be the subject of her notice. Does she need help? Emma never asks her, nor considers that she’s content as she is. Emma simply Harriet must want to be more gentile because it provides her with an excuse to provide her patronage (love the way they handle this in Clueless, by the way). My point is that Emma has a very flexible mind, and her perspective bends according to her interests. Sometimes this is a good thing – an excellent recipe for contentment – but it also can blind her to reality when it doesn’t accord with her assumptions. 

Regarding education, I think it very interesting that so many of the women in this book are educators. As Leenie, points out, Elizabeth Bennet is a lady without a formal education. The lack of it contributes to her sister’s troubles. Nearly every other Austen heroine is well-educated, but it is only in Emma that governesses and teachers are developed characters. Again, academics have plunged into this subject at length, particularly the comparison Jane Fairfax makes between the slave trade and the employment of governesses. Less discussed is to what degree Emma’s flaws should be laid at Mrs. Weston’s door, even though Mr. Knightley calls her out on it – oh wait, that’s chapter five again. Well, here’s a preview:

“I should have been sorry, Mr. Knightley, to be dependent on your recommendation, had I quitted Mr. Woodhouse’s family and wanted another situation; I do not think you would have spoken a good word for me to any body. I am sure you always thought me unfit for the office I held.”

“Yes,” said he, smiling. “You are better placed here; very fit for a wife, but not at all for a governess. But you were preparing yourself to be an excellent wife all the time you were at Hartfield. You might not give Emma such a complete education as your powers would seem to promise; but you were receiving a very good education from her, on the very material matrimonial point of submitting your own will, and doing as you were bid; and if Weston had asked me to recommend him a wife, I should certainly have named Miss Taylor.”

I’m really excited for next week’s reading and learning if Leenie is feeling any warmer towards Emma (and Mr. Knightley).