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Emma, Volume III, Chapter 12 (Chapter 48)

Another lengthy chapter, much of which is composed of Emma's musings. This is usually condensed down on film to a small shot of Emma looking pensive, or maybe beating up on herself a wee bit. (In the Gwyneth Paltrow version, some of what's in this chapter is found in her visit to the chapel just before Mr Knightley reappears, which I always find to be a charming and funny scene (the chapel, I mean).)

I am not going to put up a lengthy post about it, but really, it's another chapter in which we really see Emma's development as a person/character, with insight into the workings of her mind, which are both logical and, in some part, incorrect. They run something like this:

1. I am in love with Mr Knightley, and I've always enjoyed being his favorite.
2. He may not be in love with me.
3. Harriet may have good reason to think he's in love with her, but
4. I definitely do not, since he set me down so very decidedly after the Box Hill picnic.
5. My best bet is to hope that he never marries anyone at all, so things can go on the same as always, since I reallyreallyreally don't want him to marry Harriet.
6. And hey, when it comes to that, I can't marry him anyhow, even if he wanted me, since I have to take care of my father.

That, in a nutshell, was the long (509-word) first paragraph of the chapter, boiled down. It leads to her arriving at the conclusion that she really wants to see Harriet let down in this instance, and her decision to watch and observe carefully to see if Harriet is correct in thinking Mr Knightley might have a thing for her. Also, until Mr Knightley is back in Highbury, she really doesn't want to see Harriet at all, so . . .

Dear Harriet,

I think it best that we say nothing further about our last conversation, so for the time being, stay away from me unless we are in group company, okay?


"Harriet submitted, and approved, and was grateful."

Hey! It's Mrs Weston, stopping by in her massively pregnant state to gossip tell Emma that she just called on Jane Fairfax. On the one hand, this is a bit of a diversion, and on the other hand, it advances the shadow story (the romance between Frank and Jane) nicely, and is a way of telling us more about Jane Fairfax's character and how she's been acting so stand-offish since she got to town because her secret was tearing her apart (although not quite to the point of her having a scarlet "E" for "engaged" eating its way out of her chest - but still). And we firmly establish that Jane reallyreallyreally loves Frank Churchill. Really. Or she'd never have gotten engaged and kept the secret. Really. (This is pretty much a set-up for part of the conversation in the next chapter, and shows how detail-oriented Austen was in making sure that this information doesn't come out of nowhere.)

Then there's a bit of Emma feeling guilty (and expressing her guilt) to Mrs Weston for her treatment of Jane Fairfax, and some talk about a letter (that, it turns out in a later chapter, is coming from Frank with a full explanation of his conduct, etc., which Mrs Weston believes will fully exonerate him from being a complete cad and a bounder, as Emma believes he might be), only Emma's thoughts have drifted and she misses what the letter is about, causing Mrs Weston to worry a bit about her health.

Emma then spends the rest of her evening thinking about not only how it's possible that Mr Knightley might marry Harriet and leave her heartbroken, but also about how she was a complete cow to Jane Fairfax, and ought to have befriended the poor girl when she first got to town, the way that Mr Knightley had thought she might. You can see how it goes, right? She keeps up a pretty steady cycle of self-abuse, more or less, most of it accurate and well-merited. Poor Emma.

And for good measure, we get a look at her possible bleak future: Mr Knightley and Harriet at Donwell, so no more Mr Knightley around; Mrs Weston at home with her baby all the time, so no more Mrs Weston; and even Jane Fairfax is going to marry Frank and move away, so no Jane. She's stuck with Miss Bates and Mrs Goddard, since Mrs Elton wants nothing to do with Emma either. "[W]hat could be increasing Emma's wretchedness but the reflection never far distant from her mind, that it had been all her own work?"

Again I say, Poor Emma. Her only comfort is that she'll be wiser in the future, no matter how sad it is.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2013 03:49 pm (UTC)
Indeed - poor Emma has hit rock bottom indeed.
Mar. 22nd, 2013 05:14 am (UTC)
I do like the line about how it was all her own work. At least blame-shifting isn't one of your faults, Emma, take comfort.

And in this day & age when something like 2/3 of the elderly people in nursing homes never get a visit from a family member, I appreciate her dedication to her father's comfort, particularly since she doesn't get much return. It's amusing that the chapters in which she's involved in the most self-flagellation are the chapters in which her truly sterling qualities come to the fore.

If it's not too soon, I'm voting for Mansfield Park as the next book to cover, when you've the energy. I've just re-read it and still feel like it's the book I understand least - that the full horror of everybody's bad behavior would make more sense if I knew more of the cultural context. I always feel I'm missing something, because much as I do like Fanny, she always seems a bit over-nice in her reactions.
Mar. 22nd, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC)
You are in luck - Mansfield Park is the only of the completed novels that I haven't yet done. I am thinking we will get to it later this year, because it would be fun. Sort of. I think Fanny's a bit of a wet blanket much of the time, and, as Jenn Hubbard opined the other day, the less said about Edmund Bertram, the better.
Mar. 22nd, 2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
Well then, maybe it's not just me having trouble grasping the full horribleness of the things that make Fanny's little heart palpitate with dread.

Yes, Edmund Bertram, not so much the Man of Action. Or sense. Pretty far down the Austen hero scale.

Really I just want to know why a neglected fall should lead to a life-threatening fever. It sounds like a literary cliche rather than a real circumstance, but Austen is generally accurate, so I have to assume there's something I don't know about medical conditions of the day.

I didn't realize Mansfield Park was the last, Persuasion & Northanger Abbey are the only ones in the link sidebar & I'd lost track. Not surprising that one's last, really. I'm in Persuasion now & enjoying the much more solid ground.
Mar. 22nd, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
In order of publication, they go S&S, P&P, Mansfield Park, Emma, and then Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were posthumous. But I left MP for last as far as discussion because it took me a while to find things to like about it. But I have found an angle that I like that works for me, so we will eventually go there. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying Emma. (And starting to re-read Persuasion myself - by far the most Romantic (capital R on purpose) of her works.)
Mar. 22nd, 2013 03:28 pm (UTC)
Poor Emma, at least she knows it's her fault.
Mar. 22nd, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC)
She is remarkably clear-eyed, which is part of what makes her so likeable in the end.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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