Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Emma, Volume II, Chapter 9 (Chapter 27)
Emma did not repent her condescension in going to the Coles.
A quick reminder that "condescension" means only "courteous disregard of the inferiority of rank", and that it's supposed to be a good thing, as we discussed in Chapter 29 of Pride & Prejudice. Emma is feeling tickled pink over her acceptance of the invitation - she had a good time, she actually likes the Coles, and, as it turns out, they were so thrilled to have her that she was feeling very much fussed over.
Perfect happiness, even in memory, is not common; and there were two points on which she was not quite easy.
Emma's two points of uneasiness are (1) Jane Fairfax and (2) Jane Fairfax. In the first instance, she feels bad about having voiced her suspicions about a romance between Jane Fairfax and Mr. Dixon to Frank Churchill - and so she ought to be, since she essentially slandered Jane Fairfax there. In the second instance, she regrets that her talent in playing the pianoforte and singing is nowhere near as great as Jane Fairfax's. Harriet's inability to tell Emma's passable talent apart from Jane's superior talent actually infuriates Emma, in a way - and is a further example of how little actual taste Harriet herself has. I so love Emma's riposte: "Don't class us together, Harriet. My playing is no more like her's, than a lamp is like sunshine."
Harriet needs to grow a spine.
That point comes across loud and clear as we observe Harriet's inability to select a muslin or a ribbon or to decide where to have her parcel sent (as a gentlewoman was not expected to carry her own packages - heaven forbid!).
Of course, having made that point so clearly, we can almost be certain that Harriet will indeed start to show some spine - and that the consequences thereof aren't necessarily good. No spoilers, but . . . I'm just putting that out there.
The other thing we learn about Harriet is that she is still hung up on Robert Martin - and now she's jealous, concerned that one of the Cox sisters will snap him up.
What is Frank Churchill playing at?
He has obviously manipulated Mrs Weston into calling on the Bateses so as to hear the new pianoforte, yet he starts to try to weasel out of going to the Bateses' house himself - except that something about his manner leads me to believe that he actually wants to be forced into going. It's all reminiscent of his first day in town, when he says he has to call on Jane Fairfax, then manages things so that he's talked into doing just that.
And then, when he and Mrs Weston call on the Bateses and Jane Fairfax, he insists that Emma should be fetched, but gets himself tied up in repairing Mrs Bates's spectacles so as to necessitate Mrs Weston going with Miss Bates to fetch Emma and Harriet in to hear the pianoforte. (Hmm . . . I feel constrained to point out that this means Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax are home with only deaf Mrs Bates as a chaperon.)
In the midst of Miss Bates's rambling . . .
. . . come important nuggets of information. See how cleverly Austen "hides" things in plain sight, as it were? It's a very good use of mystery-writing techniques, such as red herrings, and burying your clues.
1. Frank's repair of the eyeglasses and manipulation of that situation
2. The Bateses have a servant, Patty, who does their cooking for them. This is helpful to know (from Miss Bates's first ramble) so as to understand how she learns the next bit of information.
3. Mr Knightley sends the Bateses apples every year - but on finding out that the Bateses are nearly done with their supply, and that Jane particularly likes them, he sends another bushel - thereby completely depleting his own stock.