Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Emma, Volume I, Chapter 14



Sometimes weeks and weeks fly by within the course of a single chapter. Notice, however, how Austen is spreading a single day across three chapters. This is one way of knowing that things are getting good. So many scenes are being set here that I feel a list coming on:

1. Mr Elton is making a pest of himself with Emma - constantly in her space, fawning over her. Enough so that Emma begins to worry that John Knightley is correct, and that Mr Elton has the hots for her.

2. Frank Churchill is one of the topics of conversation - first caught in snatches, then later discussed in detail: Frank is to visit in a fortnight (two weeks from now).

3. Emma is rather fond of the idea of falling in love with Frank Churchill. As young ladies sometimes do.

4. We hear more about Mrs Churchill, who lives and presides at an estate named Enscombe, and who is an ill-tempered attention whore and autodidact, from what can be ascertained.

5. The relationship between Emma and Mrs Weston is more clearly demonstrated - Mrs Weston is more candid with Emma than she is even with Isabella, who is older than Emma by six years, and she discusses her concerns that Frank Churchill will again put his visit off and disappoint his father, Mr Weston. Tucked inside this exchange is (a) Emma's belief that Frank Churchill has a duty to come and should be able to manage it and (b) some advice from Mrs Weston on getting one's facts straight before rendering judgment about what people are like and what they can and cannot do:

"He ought to come," said Emma. "If he could stay only a couple of days, he ought to come; and one can hardly conceive a young man's not having it in his power to do as much as that. A young woman, if she fall into bad hands, may be teazed, and kept at a distance from those she wants to be with; but one cannot comprehend a young man's being under such restraint, as not to be able to spend a week with his father, if he likes it."

"One ought to be at Enscombe, and know the ways of the family, before one decides upon what he can do," replied Mrs Weston. "One ought to use the same caution, perhaps, in judging of the conduct of any one individual of any one family; but Enscombe, I believe, certainly must not be judged by general rules: she is so very unreasonable; and every thing gives way to her."

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