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Emma, Volume II, Chapter 2 (Chapter 20)



More about Jane Fairfax

Earlier today, I summed up what we need to know about Jane Fairfax - and it still holds. This chapter is where Austen gives us most of Jane Fairfax's backstory, which includes the fact that the Campbells (her foster family) can't afford to support her forever, so she's been trained to be a governess.

As was implied by Emma in Chapter 19, Jane is far better-looking than Miss Campbell, and Austen domments that the Campbells all must really like her, since they keep her around despite that. Now, however, Jane Fairfax's friend is married, and Jane is 21 - the age at which she planned on starting her teaching career.

[S]he had now reached the age which her own judgment had fixed on for beginning. She had long resolved that one-and-twenty should be the period. With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she had resolved at one-and-twenty to complete the sacrifice, and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace and hope, to penance and mortification for ever.

Austen's narrator tells us how loath Jane Fairfax is to actually start her career as a governess. And no wonder - she has to stop being treated as a gentlewoman in society and become an employee. Even though she's still the same person with the same experience, she will step down in the social hierarchy once she starts to work for her living, and she knows it. The narrator assures us that Jane Fairfax has told her aunt the truth behind her deicision not to go to Ireland (although she was invited), but she's also withheld some truths. It'll be a while until we find out what those are.

Emma doesn't like Jane Fairfax

Emma was sorry;--to have to pay civilities to a person she did not like through three long months!--to be always doing more than she wished, and less than she ought! Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer; Mr Knightley had once told her it was because she saw in her the really accomplished young woman, which she wanted to be thought herself; and though the accusation had been eagerly refuted at the time, there were moments of self-examination in which her conscience could not quite acquit her. But "she could never get acquainted with her: she did not know how it was, but there was such coldness and reserve--such apparent indifference whether she pleased or not--and then, her aunt was such an eternal talker!--and she was made such a fuss with by every body!--and it had been always imagined that they were to be so intimate--because their ages were the same, every body had supposed they must be so fond of each other." These were her reasons--she had no better.

When Emma sees Jane, she realizes that Jane is extremely elegant and pretty and all the things that Emma actually admires. She resolves to stop disliking her, at the same time creating an imaginary life for Jane Fairfax that doesn't really exist - she imagines that Jane was in love with Mr Dixon herself, and is avoiding Ireland in an attempt to get over him.

After an evening together, Emma quickly forgets that she's decided not to dislike Jane Fairfax - Miss Bates makes her nuts and Jane Fairfax proves to be so superior to Emma when playing the piano and - worst of all - Jane Fairfax is reserved and doesn't dish about the Dixons or - worse still - about Frank Churchill, whom she has actually met at Weymouth.

"Emma could not forgive her." LOL!

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
kellyrfineman
May. 24th, 2011 01:26 am (UTC)
Diffident, even - and possibly in more than one sense of the word.
nottygypsy
May. 25th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
I love how she doesn't answer Emma.
He's thought handsome by most. His opinions seem correct. I thought it was great! She should go into politics.
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
It's like she's just toying with Emma - answering the specific question, but with vague platitudes instead of newsy gossip. It's self-defense, of course, but when we don't know that . . .
helgatwb
Jun. 4th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)
Emma decides to like her, because she is everything Emma wants to be. Then she decides she is right in hating her, because she is everything Emma wants to be. And also, because she's just too private.
kellyrfineman
Jun. 4th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)
You summed that up so much more succinctly than I!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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