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Jane Austen in Winter

When I think of Jane Austen and winter, I always think of Emma.  The snow that occurs during the Christmas Eve party at the Westons is pivotal to the plot as a way to get Mr. Elton alone with Emma.  It is also another example of how characters’ various responses to the same event reveal their personalities and whether they treat others with compassion or not.  I like that once the snow has set in for several days, Mr. Knightley still trudges through the snow to Hartfield to spend time with family.  There is so much humor in Mr. Woodhouse’s response to the snow:

“It was weather that might fairly confine everybody at home; . . . [I]t was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,–

’Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do you not stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?’”  (138-9, Oxford Edition)

Of course, winter in the Pacific Northwest means snow, especially in February this year.  We debated whether to reschedule our Spokane book discussion from 2/10 and ultimately decided to do so.  We were glad we did, based on the road conditions that day.  Both the Moscow Book Discussion on 2/17 at One World Cafe and the Spokane Book Discussion on 2/17 at Mary Ellen’s house were fun explorations of Northanger Abbey.  The weather and roads were clear enough that members were able to travel from significant distances (in some cases) to attend. The group in Spokane enjoyed the treats everyone brought and the discussion so much that the meeting went over 3 hours, instead of the usual 2. Unfortunately for the Moscow meeting, many members were ill and not able to attend the meeting.  We will try to reschedule something in warmer weather for those who missed.  With a smaller group in Moscow, we discovered all sorts of connections, like that two of the three attendees had both gone to Michigan State (and had very strong reactions against Ohio State).  It was nice to have time to get to know our fellow members more deeply.

In January we did a virtual movie night on our Facebook page for the movie “Love and Friendship”, Whit Stillman’s brilliant tribute to “Lady Susan”.  We had participants from Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.  It was so much fun to interact with people from across the country and the comments were often hilarious.  Since it was online, we did not have to worry about the weather.

One of the best parts about winter for me is making a cup of tea and snuggling under a blanket to read Jane Austen.  I think reading when it is cold outside is especially enjoyable.  In addition to re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book discussion, I have been re-reading Emma because it brings me such joy and is a way to de-stress for me.  I also read all three of Pamela Aidan’s books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series in preparation for our tea at the end of April (see our Events page for more information).  I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to hearing Pamela speak.  She will have books for sale at the tea and will be autographing books, so I plan to stock up!

I hope that you all are surviving the snow, winter illnesses, and the cold.  Most of all, enjoy some Jane Austen to brighten the days and warm your heart.  Michele

 

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Mr. Knightley’s Harshness at Box Hill

Mr. Knightley’s Harshness at Box Hill by Michele Larrow

In Emma, each scene between Emma and Mr. Knightley is presaged by earlier scenes and then connects in important ways to later scenes.  A pivotal scene is Mr. Knightley’s criticism of Emma after she has insulted Miss Bates at Box Hill. The level of emotion that Mr. Knightley shows is a continuation of the anger he has shown to Emma in discussing Harriet’s refusal of Robert Martin and the scene where they discuss Frank Churchill.  After they have argued about Harriet refusing Robert Martin, we see how angry he was perceived to be by Emma in her reflections: “She had a sort of habitual respect for his judgment in general, as made her dislike having it so loudly against her; and to have him sitting just opposite her in angry state, was very disagreeable” (E 65).  When they argue about whether Frank Churchill is free to come to visit the Westons at the end of the first volume, the language that Austen uses to describe Mr. Knightley’s speech—“displeased…warmly….with vexation” (149-150)–shows just how angry he is during the discussion.  Thus, before Box Hill, we have a couple of examples of Emma and Mr. Knightley discussing an issue and him expressing anger toward her and disapprobation about her behavior or opinions.

When Mr. Knightley criticizes Emma for her insult of Miss Bates at Box Hill, his criticism may be just, but it is delivered in an overly harsh manner.  When we have re-read the novel, we know that part of what upsets him is Emma’s flirtations with Frank Churchill and not just how she has wounded Miss Bates.  It is worthwhile to quote what Mr. Knightley says at length:

 Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do: a privilege rather endured than allowed, perhaps, but I must still use it. I cannot see you acting wrong, without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation?—Emma, I had not thought it possible” (374).

When Emma attempts to defend her behavior by noting Miss Bates can be “ridiculous” (375), he counters by accusing her of being “thoughtless” and acting with “pride”:

Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her—and before her niece, too—and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.—This is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,—I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now” (375).

Emma feels the full force of his criticism and feels “mortification and deep concern” (376), in part due to regret over hurting Miss Bates but probably more due to Mr. Knightley’s “ill opinion” (376) of her.

Emma and Mr. Knightley see each other only briefly before he leaves to visit John and Isabella, when Mr. Knightley almost kisses Emma’s hand after finding out that she has visited Miss Bates, which Emma thinks shows “perfect amity” (386).  Later, when Emma realizes she loves Mr. Knightley, she reflects on Box Hill to ascertain his feelings for her:

She could not flatter herself with any idea of blindness in his attachment to her.  She had received a very recent proof of its impartiality.—How shocked he had been by her behaviour to Miss Bates!  How directly, how strongly he had expressed himself to her on the subject! Not too strongly for the offense–but far, far too strongly to issue from any feeling softer than upright justice and clear-sighted goodwill” (415-16).

Because Mr. Knightley has been so harsh at Box Hill, Emma thinks it is possible that he does love Harriet and only thinks of her as a brother or friend would.

When Emma and Mr. Knightley discuss the engagement of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, Emma is “ashamed” (426) of her past behavior and feels that she has to confess her inadequacies to the person she sees as the critic of Box Hill, Mr. Knightley.  Emma admits to her errors of vanity in accepting Frank’s attentions.  Emma also still thinks that Mr. Knightley could be in love with Harriet.  After Mr. Knightley says that he envies Frank, Emma thinks that he wants to reveal his love for Harriet and she cuts him off.  But Emma can’t bare that she has caused him pain and she is willing to accept what she fears most—the thought of him marrying Harriet.  She invites him to talk “as a friend” (429) and Mr. Knightley declares his love to Emma “in a tone of . . . sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness” (430).  Emma and Mr. Knightley get to have their “perfect happiness” (484) because Mr. Knightley is able to stop being Emma’s critic and Emma is able to make her own good moral choices.

Pages are from:  Austen, Jane.  Emma.  Ed. R. W. Chapman.  3rd ed.  London: Oxford UP, 1966.

PBS Learning Media has the clip of this Box Hill admonition from the BBC 2009 Emma adaptation with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, directed by Jim O’Hanlon.  I think the actors do a nice job of capturing the emotions of the scene and it is fairly close to the novel.  Click on the link to view the clip—it is very short: 

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/mastem14-ela-lit-emma3/emma-3-mr-knightleys-reprimand/#

We will have a virtual viewing party on our Facebook page of Episode 4 of the 2009 Emma on Friday June 15 from 8-10.  You watch the video at your house on your computer or TV (it is free if you have Amazon Prime) and join us on Facebook to discuss the episode as it goes on.  We will press play at 8:10 PST.  More information can be found on our Facebook page under Events:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1730005510422349/

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