Hey, Emma fans! Did you get through Emma’s snobbery and manipulative jerkiness, part 1? Good job! I really do hate this part of the book. . . That’s why we’re a little behind posting, but I’ll try to make up lost time.
Chapters 6–10, Scheming: Emma decides Harriet should marry Mr. Elton and not Robert Martin. So she makes Harriet fall in love will Mr. Elton and reject Mr. Martin, and she convinces herself that Mr. Elton loves Harriet.
OK, let’s cut to the chase. Emma, WTF are you doing to Harriet? Why do you make her reject this guy that she really seems to like? Emma seems diabolical here—Machiavellian, evil. It is so off-putting that I spend a lot of time finding excuses for her behavior.
- It’s interesting, I think, that Miss Woodhouse could never visit Mrs. Robert Martin. Snobby and weird to us, but everyone agrees about that. Mr. Knightley, everyone. So it’d be sort of like convincing one of your friends that she shouldn’t take a job 3,000 miles away. Your friend kind of likes it there, but also likes it here. You don’t have many friends and you’d be lonely without her. You also think you can get her a better job here. This is selfish of you, sure. But more understandable than convincing her not to take a job 3 miles away.
- It would be less evil if Emma just said these things. But Emma isn’t really a straightforward person. And Harriet really is pretty clueless! So Emma gives us a lesson in Machiavellian tactics and misdirection. There’s no excuse for that.
- Also interesting that Mr. Knightley thinks Mr. Martin is Emma’s inferior in society just as much as Emma does. The difference is that Mr. Knightley thinks Harriet is socially inferior too. It’s purely Emma’s imaginings about Harriet’s background that make Emma think Harriet is not inferior to her.
- And, my favorite argument about this: Mr. Darcy does exactly the same thing to Mr. Bingley! And boasts about it to Colonel Fitzwilliam! Yet we don’t hold it against him, dislike him for it, as we do Emma. Maybe if we heard how Mr. Darcy dissuades Mr. Bingley, and how Mr. Bingley responded, we would think about it more. It’s so off-camera that it’s easy to ignore. We can imagine them acting in the best possible way—we don’t have to hear Mr. Darcy manipulating Mr. Bingley explicitly.
OK, enough of that. Here are some other scenic points along the way:
- I’m fascinated by the description of Emma’s natural talent and lack of application when they’re talking about her portraits in Chapter 6. She is like the quintessential slacker gifted kid. I can relate.
- Check out the conversation on What Men Want between Emma and Mr. Knightley in Chapter 8. Emma says (playfully), men like pretty girls better than smart ones. But Mr. Knightley says, “Men of sense . . . do not want silly wives.” I love Austen and her women-respecting heroes! Mr. Knightley acknowledges Emma has “reason”—rational thought. No surprise to us now, but this was a debate that went back and forth at the time. Could women think rationally or were they entirely governed by emotion. Emma’s a flawed person, but she is intelligent. I’d love to know how readers of the time viewed that—I know they didn’t like her, but was her “reason,” her brain, a thing people doubted?
- Mr. Elton is the Justin Bieber of Highbury—everybody’s crush! So popular! So beautiful!
- Mr. Woodhouse is almost a caricature of old people in general – anything new or any change is terrible! But Emma is like her father in supposing what’s good or bad for her is good or bad for everyone. Jane makes fun of Mr. Woodhouse explicitly: “his spirits [were] affected by his daughter’s attachment to her husband.”
- It’s interesting that we see Emma’s charity to the poor family—maybe Austen felt like she needed to show us that Emma is objectively a good person. Also, Harriet is the complete yes-woman!
- I like the John Knightleys—I like the inclusion of the kids, I like the character of John Knightley as being good but not perfect—considerate and kindly, but no nonsense
But I am glad Emma’s mistreatment of Harriet is almost over. She doesn’t do her best by Jane Fairfax, but it’s all much more understandable. I guess our lesson here is, don’t make a friend of someone who worships you. No good will come of it!
Good news, beloved readers! We’ve found something to ward off those post-Austen’s-birthday blues: the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. Our lovely and talented fellow blogger (blogress?) Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose.com is editing a new anthology of fiction inspired by Jane, and she and The Republic of Pemberley want everyone to get in on the game. Enter your story in January or February, and then vote on your favorites. The Grand Prize winner gets included in the anthology! (And no, this doesn’t count as vanity publishing, as far as we can tell.) So . . . in that spirit I would like to offer a little holiday mash-up of my own.
The Nutcracker, by Jane Austen
Little Clara Elizabeth Bennet doesn’t expect too much from the Christmas assembly family party ball at Netherfield. A chance to be witty, some animated dolls, and a few partners in the Grand Dance, that’s it. However, her deus ex machina, Jane Drosselmeyer, has other plans: She gives Lizzie a Nutcracker, of all things. Despite its stiffness and unresponsiveness, Lizzie finds the Nutcracker mysteriously attractive, as does everyone else. (The Nutcracker must have at least ten thousand a year.) Everyone wants a piece of him, but nobody gets results until Lizzie’s bratty little brother(-in-law . . . to be), Fritz Wickham, grabs the Nutcracker and breaks him in two!—or his reputation at least.
Then, Lizzie has a dream in which she visits Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, and Rosings Park. (You didn’t think she’d go see Mr. Collins while she was awake, did you?) Colonel Mouse King Fitzwilliam and his minions, the Mice of Doubt and Listening to Gossip, almost manage to kill the wounded Nutcracker entirely, and he himself takes a kamikaze marriage proposal run. BUT, just when you think the Nutcracker is down for the count, he writes a letter to Lizzie and gets her to read it/hit the Mouse King with a slipper/fire a cannon at him. And then the Nutcracker springs up, he slays the Mice of Doubt, he takes off his head, and ta-da! he turns into Colin Firth!
Now I know this is just sounding more and more improbable. But it is a dream after all. So bear with me.
After all these revelations, both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy spend the winter in thought. He’s relieved to finally be a human being, and to not have a papier mache head anymore, but . . . she doesn’t hate him anymore, but . . . In some thoughts they might dance together, in others there might just be snow. Thus, intermission.
Miss Drosselmeyer Austen, having given everyone time to go to the bathroom, decides to send Lizzie off to Pemberley, presided over by the Sugar Plum Fairy Housekeeper. Mr. Darcy appears, as does most of the cast of Act I in slightly different clothing. Pemberley provides lots of food for thought for Lizzie, all of it yummy: Spanish chocolate, Arabian coffee, Chinese tea, Russian candy canes, Danish marzipan shepherdesses. There’s also polichinelles that live under a drag queen’s skirt (Miss Bingley and her neverending drama), and flowers, tons and tons of flowers. The gardens of Pemberley are famous, are they not?
All this sweetness and light convinces Lizzie that Mr. Darcy is the man/prince/alien-with-two-heads for her. However, there’s a lot of serious dancing to get through yet—a sort of back and forth, moral agonizing about who’s done what, does s/he really love me, and all that. In the end, though, as we knew it would be, Lizzie runs to Mr. Darcy, he scoops her up and gets a mouthful of tutu (Mrs. Bennet), and they live happily ever after.
. . . Or do they? . . . Sometimes Lizzie wakes up from her dream, and realizes she’s back at home, with her Nutcracker toy and no prince at all. Sometimes she doesn’t . . . The top is still spinning. Will it stop? . . .