The immediate impression one gets of Miss Bates is that of a loquacious old biddy, one of Emma’s more annoying personalities. But Miss Bates offers a refreshing contrast to the other characters in the novel, many of whom harbor hidden agendas and thinly veiled animosities toward perceived rivals. If “every major character in Emma [is] a snob”, we might consider Miss Bates the anti-snob. Her very artlessness serves as a foil for those in the novel whom present contrived images of themselves or whom look down their noses at others. When she compliments others’ concern and generosity, as she is constantly found doing, there can be no doubt that her sentiments are genuine, if somewhat misplaced. She always speaks her mind — but then, her mind is always occupied with the good, making her lack of cant pleasant rather than overbearing.
In the first part of the book, Miss Bates serves not only as the anti-snob, but also the anti-Emma. Whereas Emma is described at the outset as being “handsome, clever, and rich,” Miss Bates “enjoy[s] a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married.” Nor, obviously, clever. Life has denied her everything that Emma has been granted; and how does Emma treat her, and speak of her to others? Shabbily, of course. “If I thought I should ever be like Miss Bates,” Emma tells Harriet, who has expressed concern about Emma’s choice to remain unmarried, “so silly, so satisfied, so smiling, so prosing, so undistinguishing and unfastidious, and so apt to tell everything relative to everybody about me, I would marry to-morrow.” She neglects to visit the Bateses often because of “all the horror of being in dange…
… middle of paper …
… York: The Oxford University press, 1923-1988.
Cookson, Linda, and Brian Loughrey, eds. Critical essays on Emma [of] Jane Austen. Harlow: Longman Literature Guides [series], 1988.
Craik, W. A. The Development of Jane Austen’s comic art: Emma: Jane Austen’s mature comic art. London: Audio Learning, 1978. Sound recording; 1 cassette; 2-track. mono. Gard, Roger, [1936- ].
Jane Austen, Emma and Persuasion. Harmondsworth : Penguin, Penguin masterstudies [series], 1985.
Monaghan, David, ed. Emma, by Jane Austen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. Parrish, Stephen M, ed. Emma: an authoritative text: backgrounds, reviews, and criticism. New York : W.W. Norton, A Norton critical edition [series], 1972,1993.
Sabiston, Elizabeth Jean, [1937- ]. The Prison of Womanhood: four provincial heroines in nineteenth-century fiction. London : Macmillan, 1987.
Genteel People and Honest Hearts in Jane Austen’s Emma
Emma: Genteel People and Honest Hearts
In Emma, Jane Austen gives us ‘only the surface of the lives of genteel people’? Though not necessarily a commonly used term today, the meaning of ‘genteel people’ is easily assumed. Good birth and breeding are not necessarily the only ‘qualities’ of genteel people: simple generosity, courtesy and elegance can also apply, as well as marriage into the class. The majority of the characters in Emma to some extent expand this definition to provide exceptions to the rule or abuses of the title. In this way the characters provide an interesting answer to the question of whether or not Austen actually deals with genteel people.
Mrs and Miss Bates are genteel people and of genteel birth. They are well educated and well spoken and readily invited into the Woodhouse circle. This high class is illustrated at Boxhill during Mr Knightley’s vehement reprimand of Emma’s cutting remark: ‘she has seen you grow up from a period when her notice of you was an honour.’ Of course, they have since slipped in monetary value, but retain their social position nonetheless. Mrs. Elton has the money, but not the connections or character to be considered genteel. Her marriage to a vicar as Mr Elton has raised her a class, but she has clearly not had the breeding to be comfortable in such high society, as she shows by continually dropping Maple Grove into conversations, and justifying her talents: ‘well, my friends say…’ Harriet Smith obviously is not genteel by birth, being the ‘natural daughter of somebody’ but Emma invents her parentage for the sake of the love games. The original modesty and humility that Harriet enjoys are accentuated and extended under the careful care of Emma. Th…
… middle of paper …
…ane Austen. Harlow: Longman Literature Guides [series], 1988. Craik, W. A. The Development of Jane Austen’s comic art: Emma: Jane Austen’s mature comic art. London: Audio Learning, 1978. Sound recording; 1 cassette; 2-track. mono. Gard, Roger, [1936- ]. Jane Austen, Emma and Persuasion. Harmondsworth : Penguin, Penguin masterstudies [series], 1985. Jefferson, D. W. (Douglas William), [1912- ]. Jane Austen’s Emma: a landmark in English fiction. London: Chatto and Windus for Sussex University Press, Text and context [series], 1977. Lauritzen, Monica. Jane Austen’s Emma on television: a study of a BBC classic serial. Goteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Gothenburg studies in English, 48 [series], 1981. Sabiston, Elizabeth Jean, [1937- ]. The Prison of Womanhood: four provincial heroines in nineteenth-century fiction. London : Macmillan, 1987.