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Emma, Volume II, Chapter 12 (Chapter 30)

Once again, a chapter in which Austen hides her clues in plain sight. This is another of those chapters in which, to borrow a term from one of Jenn Hubbard's comments to an earlier post, we see Austen setting up all her dominoes.

About that ball

Emma first frets that Frank will not be given permission to stay, but it turns out that while his aunt at Enscombe is not happy about it, she allows it. Looking for something else to fret about, Emma decides to be put out at Mr Knightley's disinterest in the ball.

Mr Knightley: If the Westons want to have a ball, I'll go, but I'd much rather stay home and look over the accounts for my estate. *sings "I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me"*

Meanwhile, it turns out that Jane Fairfax really LOVES the idea of the ball. Moreso than Emma. At least as much if not moreso than Frank Churchill. Quoth she, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, I hope nothing may happen to prevent the ball. What a disappointment it would be! I do look forward to it, I own, with very great pleasure." She is open and animated, even. What were the odds?

"The over-throw of everything"

Alas, a mere two days after Frank is given permission to stay, he is summoned home. Poor Mrs Churchill is ill. Only Frank knows that she's only ill when she wants something, so he isn't too concerned about it. Still, he must away. Emma is alerted about the situation by a note from Mrs Weston, who tells us that Frank has only enough time to take his leave of a few friends in Highbury, and then he'll probably stop at Hartfield, and then he must away.

Emma was ready for her visitor some time before he appeared; but if this reflected at all upon his impatience, his sorrowful look and total want of spirits when he did come might redeem him. He felt the going away almost too much to speak of it. His dejection was most evident. He sat really lost in thought for the first few minutes; and when rousing himself, it was only to say,

"Of all horrid things, leave-taking is the worst."

"But you will come again," said Emma. "This will not be your only visit to Randalls."

"Ah!--(shaking his head)--the uncertainty of when I may be able to return!--I shall try for it with a zeal!--It will be the object of all my thoughts and cares!

Emma is sorry the ball has been delayed, but gratified at having been right about it not happening. Still, she says, "I would much rather have been merry than wise."

Frank waxes quite rhapsodic about Highbury and the people who get to remain there, discussing how precious every moment of his visit was to him, and he starts to tell Emma something confidential, but she, suspecting he is going to speak words of love, puts him off. He sighs, obviously trying to make out her tone and meaning, and then his father appears, leaving Emma to think things through.

Listlessness = love

She has decided that Frank must be very much in love with her, and may have been on the brink of proposing prior to his father's arrival. Once he's gone, taking his newness and charm and enthusiasm with him, Emma feels let down - and surmises that perhaps she's a little in love with Frank Churchill after all. "This sensation of listlessness, weariness, stupidity, this disinclination to sit down and employ myself, this feeling of every thing's being dull and insipid about the house!--I must be in love[.]" LOL!

Her thoughts immediately turn from the possibility of love with Frank Churchill to Mr Knightley, who must be happy that the ball has been cancelled. Mr Knightley does not triumph in it, however; he's sorry that Emma did not have an opportunity to dance. And poor Jane Fairfax has been so ill with headaches that Miss Bates figures she wouldn't have made it to the ball anyhow.

Those of you re-reading the book should feel free to post spoilers in the comments if you care to discuss them, but please mark them spoilery up front so first-time readers have the option of avoiding them.

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
I love how, in the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, she looks so...bemused and clinical during this scene. No excitement, no delight...:)
Jun. 5th, 2011 04:27 am (UTC)
As helgatwb says, "Um, yeah. I always feel I am in love when I am bored out of my brain. That's exactly what it is. Crossed in love, again, drat it!"

Edited at 2011-06-05 01:03 pm (UTC)
Jun. 5th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
Might be a little spoilery.
Um, yeah. I always feel I am in love when I am bored out of my brain. That's exactly what it is. Crossed in love, again, drat it!

Emma's interruption of Frank Churchill is interesting. I hadn't noticed it before, but it forshadows something that happens later, doesn't it? I'll leave it at that, or there will be spoilers.
Jun. 5th, 2011 03:47 am (UTC)
Sorry, sorry. That comment, subject line: Might be a little spoilery, was me.
Jun. 5th, 2011 04:26 am (UTC)
It's interesting how reading it looking for What Austen's Up To makes a huge difference in what you see - here, you see Frank feeling nearly certain that Emma has guessed his secret, but he's not positive, so he sighs - he doesn't want to tell her if she doesn't already know, but if she does know, he doesn't really mind. Hence the probing glance and the sigh - he just can't tell.

Meanwhile, Emma's head is in a completely different place, and we readers (especially on the first read-through) see it her way.

And notice that Jane Fairfax's health, which had recovered splendidly while Frank was in town, is now back to its precarious state. Poor Jane. All that secrecy and guilt and making up headaches and such to cover her sorrow.
Jun. 5th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
I just think that this conversation bookends a different conversation later in the book. A different man, and he wants to tell her, but Emma's head is again in a place where she doesn't want to listen.

As far as reading it to see more what is going on, that's why I enjoy reading them along with you. I read your summary, then I read the chapter, with a different perspective, then I come back here to discuss.
Jun. 5th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
Ooh - good point about the bookends - brilliant, in fact!
Jun. 6th, 2011 08:23 am (UTC)
Still spoilery!

You know, I tend to believe in those headaches of Jane's. I once had a migraine that lasted 6 months because of work stress, and to this day often my first real sign of emotional stress is the feeling of being stabbed through the eye with an icepick. Of course it's possible she's shamming as the only polite way to avoid social situations, but stress and misery you can't get out any other way and can't possibly resolve is apt to sublimate into physical illness.

I wonder what this story would look like told from Jane's POV. Is she really so very good that she'd make a boring heroine? How much does she wish Emma would come down off her self-centered horse and make friends? Does she think she's as superior to Emma as Emma does, when Emma is being candid with herself? And, seriously, WHAT does she see in Frank? That's the bit I don't get. When I think of Frank, I'm reminded of a phrase from college, "decorative but useless."
Jun. 6th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Still very spoilery indeed

Jane's headaches are quite possibly real, although later we are consistently told that she has them and can't function, only to learn that she's walking all over the place on her own, so I (rather hopefully) believe they are similar to Elizabeth Bennet's plea of a "headache" after learning from Colonel Fitzwilliam of Darcy's role in separating Jane and Bingley - an excuse used to explain her extreme upset, which is enough to make her look very ill indeed. They are frequently interpreted in commentary as being a symptom of neuralgia, that semi-hypochondriacal set of medical conditions attributed to women in increasing numbers during the Victorian era. And to be honest, Austen told her family members about the after-lives of some of her characters, especially in this book - and in her version, Jane Fairfax really did have somewhat precarious health (rather like Frank Churchill's aunt, come to that) and lived only nine years past their marriage.

I think Jane's version might be interesting, although some of the more intriguing parts occur in Weymouth, where she meets Frank, falls in love, and agrees to a secret engagement. Which reminds me that Jane's reserve and illness is directly related to that secret - even though an engagement is a good thing, this is the sort of secret that festers anyhow. And I imagine that she is the sort of "good" that I might have trouble empathizing with - she has to watch her fiancé essentially dance attendance on Emma Woodhouse. At the start, when he's making comments about the pianoforte, he's using double-speak that works as words of love for her, but to see him dancing with Emma at the Coles (and not with her) must be a bit hard to swallow, and then his behavior later, including at Box Hill, must be rough indeed.

I have to suppose that when she met Frank, he was charming. And he does seem exceedingly in love with her (overall), despite being at least a bit immature in how he goes about things. He is indeed decorative, but probably not entirely useless. We don't get to see him in any "functional" way because any use he has will be in the running of Enscombe, which he doesn't have to deal with as long as Mrs Churchill is alive. He is (in this respect) similar to Tom Bertram, the eldest son in Mansfield Park, who has been raised to take over the estate, but at present has little to do.
Jun. 6th, 2011 10:55 pm (UTC)
I had forgotten all those long walks. Although, if I lived with Miss Bates, I might go for long walks even with a migraine. ;)

I suppose, since Frank Churchill isn't a hero, it shouldn't really matter that we never see him at his best in the book. Clearly for Jane to love him, he must have a redeeming side, and probably even a serious side. I'd just have liked to see it a bit, for Jane's sake.

Perhaps a version from Jane's POV would be able to explain the watching in silence part satisfactorily, though nothing leaps to mind. But she does rebel eventually, so she has at least a little spunk.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 5th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
Indeed. And yet, when it gets cancelled, he feels sorry for Emma. Gotta love Mr Knightley.
Jun. 6th, 2011 08:24 am (UTC)
Knightley, the Man After My Own Heart ;)

Put me in a room with 5 people and a cat, and I'll talk to the cat...
Jun. 6th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
LOL! And yet, I can't blame you. Cats are such excellent company, and quite good at conversation.
Jun. 6th, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
Frequently their conversation is a good deal more sensible than anything going on among the people... although that can depend on the cat.
Feb. 21st, 2013 03:09 am (UTC)
Emma is SO SURE he's in love with her. A little bit less of ourselves please Emma!
Feb. 21st, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
In all fairness, Frank is playing a double game here. But yeah - Emma has been taught to think highly of herself, so she does.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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