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Emma, Volume III, Chapter 14 (Chapter 50)

Let me start

Let me start by saying that if this were, indeed, a simple romance novel, the book would be over right now. The hero has declared himself, the heroine has done the same, and their happily ever after is presumed.

Only that is not what this book is. This book is about a young lady really coming into her own and developing her moral character, which is why we get this chapter (and a few more to come), in which we examine her feelings about her romance and its effect on others, as well as coming to terms (tying a bow on, really) the "shadow story" of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax.

I'm just saying.

The start of the chapter

After the previous (marvelous) chapter, I confess that I really adore how this one starts. First we hear about Emma's feelings, which are so well-described - and exactly how it feels when one is perfectly, happily in love (even if only for a short time). Then we get another taste of Austen's Romanticism, where Emma's are reflected in her observation of Nature, followed by an expression of her level of distraction. In true comedic form, Austen then moves on to Mr. Woodhouse's thoughts. I've stopped just after my favorite droll line.

What totally different feelings did Emma take back into the house from what she had brought out!--she had then been only daring to hope for a little respite of suffering;--she was now in an exquisite flutter of happiness, and such happiness moreover as she believed must still be greater when the flutter should have passed away.

They sat down to tea--the same party round the same table--how often it had been collected!--and how often had her eyes fallen on the same shrubs in the lawn, and observed the same beautiful effect of the western sun!--But never in such a state of spirits, never in any thing like it; and it was with difficulty that she could summon enough of her usual self to be the attentive lady of the house, or even the attentive daughter.

Poor Mr. Woodhouse little suspected what was plotting against him in the breast of that man whom he was so cordially welcoming, and so anxiously hoping might not have taken cold from his ride.--Could he have seen the heart, he would have cared very little for the lungs[.]

Emma's sleepless night

Once Mr Knightley leaves, Emma's hormones settle down a bit, "and in the course of the sleepless night, which was the tax for such an evening, she found one or two such very serious points to consider, as made her feel, that even her happiness must have some alloy. Her father--and Harriet." The word "alloy" here does not refer to a mixture of metals, but means instead something like "the state of impairing the quality or reducing the value of something".

Emma quickly concludes that (a) she cannot leave her father, and therefore cannot marry until after his death and (b) she has to figure out a way to decrease Harriet's pain as best she can - and she arrives at a workable plan involving Harriet taking a trip to visit Isabella and John Knightley in London. The first thing she does in the morning is to write a letter to Harriet explaining that Mr Knightley is in love with her (Emma) and not with Harriet, and to opine that it's best if they keep their distance for a bit. The next thing she does is have breakfast and a visit with Mr Knightley. Once he leaves, she gets a letter from Mrs Weston, who you will recall is pregnant and due any moment.

Frank Churchill has some 'splaining to do

"Let me explain. No. Is too much. Let me sum up."

Frank acknowledges his entire relationship with Jane Fairfax and his (mis)conduct with Emma, whom he credited for knowing/realizing way more than she did. Turns out that he and Jane had a fight after Box Hill, so he left in a huff - and got to his aunt's in time to be there when she died. He'd written a letter to Jane to explain things, but in the confusion after his aunt's death, it remained unsent inside his writing desk (likely a small, portable trunk-like container that sits on top of a table or desk in order to prepare correspondence). Meanwhile, Jane thinks he's called the whole thing off. (Remember Miss Bates's recitation of the order of things when they ate at the vicarage after the Box Hill picnic, and how Jane decided to accept the offer after hearing that Frank had left town?)

Of course, nobody thinks to tell Frank about Jane Fairfax's news, since nobody knows they have any real bond, and Frank's aunt just died, so why would they bother him with petty stuff? The first inkling he gets is a letter from Jane asking him to return her prior correspondence, which is when he figures out that he didn't send her the letter he'd written, and immediately gets his uncle's permission to marry Jane and hightails it to Highbury to set things straight.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 1st, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
No kidding!
Apr. 2nd, 2013 05:37 am (UTC)
Perfect Knightly will work it out. And Frank really was an ass. Even IF Emma did know, which, she did not.
Apr. 2nd, 2013 02:54 pm (UTC)
Frank really was an ass. Although Austen lets him explain himself so that he's merely proved to be fallible, not boorish. Love how she presents so many characters that are grey - almost none are black or white!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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