Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Catching up to where we left off, part three

So I fell down a rabbit hole, as sometimes happens, but I am back today with the third "bringing us up to speed on Emma" post. Later today, I hope to tell you a bit about my time in Wonderland, but in the meantime . . .

I have been remiss in not mentioning the entire cast of players, so here goes:

Emma Woodhouse: "Clever, handsome, and rich". She is the wealthiest of Austen's heroines by far, and has declared to her friend Harriet that she need not ever marry, because she's set for life - she's got money and a father who lets her do as she likes.

Mr. Woodhouse: The aforementioned father, who tends to be a bit of a hypochondriac and a worrier. He would be very happy for Emma to stay home and never marry. He's still upset that his older daughter, Isabella, got married (to John Knightley) and moved to London, and he's more recently upset that Emma's governess/companion has gotten married to a man in the neighborhood. He doesn't adapt well to change, you see.

Mr. (George) Knightley: Almost as in an allegory is he named. George after the King, showing him to be a Tory and a true Englishman, and Knightley as in a knight. Mr. Knightley's first name is barely used, and he is nearly always "Mr. Knightley". He is all that is good and proper about a country-dwelling gentleman - bound by duty and honor, generous to those around him, intelligent, honest, diligent, and . . . well, you get the drift. If he weren't so well-rounded and well-grounded, he might be insufferable, but he's like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.

Mr. John Knightley: The younger brother of Mr. Knightley, who married Emma's older sister. Mr. John Knightley is a barrister, and works in London, where he makes a nice life for his wife and children.

Isabella (Woodhouse) Knightley: Emma's older sister, who spends most of her time managing her children and fussing about their health (and her own); she takes after her father in that respect.

Harriet Smith: A boarder and former student at Mrs. Goddard's School for Young Ladies, she is the illegitimate child of an unidentified person who sent her to be raised by Mrs. Goddard. She is a pretty girl in need of a bit of culture and education, whom Emma takes on as a protegée.

Mr. Robert Martin: A farmer, who would like to marry Harriet despite her being a bit impractical as a choice. He is one of Mr. Knightley's tenants.

Mrs. Weston: Formerly Miss Taylor, Emma's governess and then companion. She does a decent job steering Emma in the right direction, although like everyone in Emma's life except for Mr. Knightley, she tends to be too indulgent with her.

Mr. Weston: A big-hearted man who has made a fortune in trade, and bought himself a nice house in Highbury. He has a son from his first marriage, which ended when his wife died not too long after the child was born. His son was raised by his in-laws, Mr. & Mrs. Churchill, and has taken their surname in order to inherit from them.

Frank Churchill: He is as noisy in his absence as in his presence - always supposed to come for a visit, and seldom carrying through. Often the reason given is that he is required to be elsewhere by his adoptive mother, Mrs. Churchill, who claims illness more often than Mr. Woodhouse and Isabella combined. Frank is flirtatious and somewhat frivolous and more of a town dandy than a country gentleman. (Austen's bias comes through clearly here.) The Westons would like nothing more than for him to marry Emma.

Mr. Elton: The local clergyman, Mr. Elton is a gentleman with a decent income. He aspires to a much better one, however, by marrying a wealthy girl. He is described as being a good-looking young man, and he tends to be a bit obsequious to his betters.

Mrs. Elton: We haven't yet met her in my recaps, but she's a piece of work. She is likely nouveau riche, and she is ostentatious, opinionated, and loud.

Miss Bates: A local spinster gentlewoman, she's the daughter of a deceased clergyman. She lives with her mother, Mrs. Bates, who is nearly deaf. In the absence of any family fortune or any real pension, they have fallen on hard times. Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley ensure they are invited places and send them gifts of food, etc., now and again.

Jane Fairfax: The niece of Miss Bates, who was orphaned at a young age. She was taken on as a companion to a girl about her own age who has just married. Jane is poor, but otherwise an impeccable gentlewoman, often held up to Emma as an example by Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston. Jane is facing the unwelcome prospect of becoming a governess to earn her own keep.

That's enough to be going on with for now. Tomorrow, more of a plot catch-up.

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