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!
Travel has been much on my mind lately. I need to get away. I need to see new places, have new experiences. I need to go and stay with my friend and her obnoxious husband for two months. Wait . . . back up. Can we try that again?
Take 2: I need to go to London to get my hair cut. And while I’m there I can stay with an annoying old woman, try to glimpse my not-fiancé, and avoid my evil sister-in-law . . . maybe not.
Take 3: OK, yes, let’s take a trip to Bath for someone’s gout (thank goodness not mine). Ooh, and I could meet a handsome young man and maybe he’ll ask me to stay at his family’s abbey, and I can get in some quality ghost time! This is getting better.
Take 4: I know! Let’s drive to the seaside. Someone can fall down and injure themselves, and then we can go to Bath, and . . . and I’ll meet an old schoolfriend and be saved by her from a disastrous marriage, and finally marry the man of my dreams. Under an umbrella. There. That’s a wrap!
I do love it when the characters travel in Jane Austen. You just know that dramatic things are going to happen. Characters and destinies will be revealed. Not like in real life, where they . . . probably won’t. And I have a feeling Austen herself loved travel in spite of her better judgment. She may make snobby comments about the Eltons’ “exploring,” but you get a breath of fresh air when her heroines are on the road, when they look at the sea.
Photo credit: ©Tardiskey. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
We need more parties, don’t we? Well, I know I do, especially Jane Austen parties! Other people have ventured opinions on this topic. 99% of them involve a) tea, b) watching movies, or c) both. I’m in favor of all three of these activities (well, duh), but I do think we could broaden our horizons here, venture across the ha-ha, as it were.
Basic steps: This write-up has some good ideas, including period card games, period snacks, and trivia. Be warned that you are venturing into weirder territory here than you know, as Miss Osborne’s cooking experiments have shown us. Stick to syllabub, is my advice. As far as card games go, I love them, but Miss Austen did not, or at any rate none of her heroines did. So if you play them, stick to the more “comfortable, noisy” games, like Speculation, and avoid Whist as all costs. Whist (the precursor of Bridge) is bo-ring, both in Mansfield Park and in my experience. Still, you get good discussions around the card table, and good insights into people’s characters, the Crawfords’ in particular.
Crafty steps: While “painting tables, covering screens, and netting purses” may draw derision from Mr. Darcy, I am all in favor of “cutting up silk and gold paper” as the girls do in Persuasion, and crafts in general. Here’s some Regency party craft ideas.
Ballsy steps: Lots of places have Regency balls, where you can be spurned by Mr. Darcy and overhear Mr. Elton insulting your best friend, and have good times generally. You can also do this at home, even if you have to dance down the hall to lively tunes from your MP3 player. (It’s better than Mary Bennet on the piano.) Make sure to have white soup, negus, and indiscreet conversations, and, ladies, I happen to know that many gentlemen find Regency/square dancing less intimidating than ballroom. Show them diagrams! Let them figure it out!
RPG steps: It’s funny how you never hear “role-playing” and “Jane Austen” in the same sentence, especially when you consider all that fanfic out there. So, if you are really feeling adventurous, I suggest designing some sort of Austen role-playing activity. You could, you know, assign the different parts from a book beforehand, get everyone together, and let them have at it. Sounds sort of like Lost in Austen, doesn’t it? Or, since it’s almost Halloween, why not do a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies flash mob? Everyone decide beforehand whether you’ll be a zombie, a Bennet sister, or an innocent bystander; show up someplace and have it out! Regency zombie battles on the National Mall! I see this happening, people! Serious Austen party-ers will do this in full costume, of course. But watch where you put that sword. You could put someone’s eye out with that thing.
Olympic steps: OK, OK, it’s true that zombies aren’t genuine Austen. But it’s also true that whenever you get together, you are probably having a party pretty close to one Jane Austen wrote! Oh, the food, drink, dancing, and clothes might be different, but I bet the social dynamics are not far off. I know that’s not what you want to hear, though, so I suggest the Jane Austen Olympics! Events can include: the 100-meter Dash Across the Lawn to Find Mr. Bennet, the All-Terrain Walk to Netherfield (points deducted per inch of dirty hem), the Louisa Musgrove Stair-Jumping Contest, the Pairs’ Rainy Hillside Rescue Dance, Fencing Wits, and Conversational Gymnastics (Lizzie’s an odds-on favorite there, clearly), and . . . .
But you see! The possibilities are endless! Now get your corsets on, go out there, and PARTY!!!
Photo credits: ©juzka81. Used through Creative Commons licensing.
Welcome to the seventh night of the Jane Austen Winter Olympics. These Games have already seen some tremendous moments. Who could forget the Short Track Speed Ice Contradancing, with Mr. Elton cutting off Miss Smith in the semifinals, and Mr. Knightley dramatic rescue bringing them both into the finals, before his triumphant gold-medal skate with Miss Woodhouse? Or Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s death-defying tricks and precise execution bringing home the gold in Women’s Conversational Half-Pipe? But I think it’s fair to say that NO event at these Games has received as much as attention as the Mothers’ Snowboard Cross. Four strong contenders on a course that’s already claimed a lot of matchmakers. Here’s Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Dick Button with the call. Mrs. Fitzpatick?
Thanks, Bob. Yes, we do have a very strong field in these finals. In the red jersey you see Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings Park. She’s a strong competitor, known for letting her temper get the better of her. Look for her to take the early lead in this race. Next to her in the blue jersey is Mrs. Bennet of Longbourne. I think it’s fair to say she wants this race as much as anyone here, and has trained so hard for it ever since her daughter Jane turned 15. She may want it too much, though. She just needs to lay down a nice smooth run, and keep her mouth shut. Bit of a tall order for her, eh Dick?
Indeed, Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Now a bit of a dark horse here is Lady Lucas of Lucas Lodge in the black jersey. We don’t know much about this competitor, except that she’s bold and may make a sudden move on the turns, so keep an eye out for her. And rounding out the field in the yellow jersey is Mrs. Gardiner of Longbourne. Now correct me if I’m wrong here, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but isn’t Mrs. Gardiner originally from Gracechurch Street? Yet she’s competing here for Longbourne?
Yes, that’s right, Dick. Mrs. Gardiner’s own daughters are too young for her to compete for them, so she took Longbourne citizenship recently. A bit of luck for the Bennet girls: Mrs. Gardiner is a strong and wily competitor. She runs a very strategic race. And look for her to capitalize on the others’ mistakes. Bob?
Well, there you have it. Four mothers, all racing for the ultimate prize, an Olympic gold medal of a husband. We’ll be back after this.
[COMMERCIAL BREAK: Ralph Lauren, proud maker of all Olympic wear, both practical long sleeves, and wedding clothes. Visa, go anywhere in the world, Frank Churchill!]
And now we’re back with the Mothers’ Snowboard Cross . . . and they’re on-course! This is for the gold!
Mrs. Bennet faltering in the rhythm section right of the bat, Dick, yet she manages to hold on. Will nothing shut that woman up? And . . . yes, Lady Catherine settles into an early lead with a nice line around the first turn. Her daughter’s weak and unattractive, so she needs to stay out front to avoid any sudden passes by the others. So it’s Lady Catherine in front, followed by Lady Lucas, then Mrs. Gardiner, and Mrs. Bennet bringing up the rear. I think she may have taken herself out of it, Dick!
Longbourne will have to rely on Mrs. Gardiner for now . . . Oh! Sudden burst of speed out of Lady Lucas on that jump—she almost collides with Lady Catherine, but they both stay on the course. And, yes, Mrs. Bennet’s having real trouble in the back—she caught an edge on that turn and went over. It’s all down to Mrs. Gardiner now . . . And, yes, she passes Lady Lucas easily on that turn, nice inside pass there, looks like Lady Lucas lost the pace a bit in her near collision . . . And now the racers can see the bottom of the course! Just a few big jumps and they’re through . . . Lady Catherine still holding her lead. . . OH, and a stunning upset! Lady Catherine flips off Miss Elizabeth in mid-air and misses her landing! Mrs. Gardiner sails in for a smooth gold medal! Here comes Lady Lucas for the silver, and LOOK, HERE COMES MRS. BENNET over the final jump! WHAT an unbelievable comeback!!! Will Lady Catherine get up in time? . . . NO, and it’s a photo finish between Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet for the silver! We’ll have to wait for the replay on that. And Lady Catherine is still down—looks like she may really be hurt, we’ll hear from the doctors later, but WHAT an amazing race! So it’s Mrs. Gardiner with the gold, and, yes, she’s choosing Mr. Darcy for Miss Elizabeth, and Mrs. Bennet sneaks past Lady Lucas for the silver . . . looks like she’ll pick up Mr. Bingley for Miss Bennet, no surprise there, and Lady Lucas with the bronze takes Mr. Collins for Miss Lucas. Lady Catherine took herself out of it, so no husband for Miss de Bourgh. Mrs. Fitzpatrick, your final thoughts on the race?
Well, Dick, I’m really impressed with the way Mrs. Bennet recovered from her early mistakes to snag a silver medal for her daughter. And Mrs. Gardiner’s handling of the course was superb overall. It can be so easy to let the other racers push you around, and she really avoided all that. She’s a class act, through and through. Overall an excellent day for the Longbourne family. And I think we’ll see both Longbourne ladies back on the circuit—there are plenty of Bennet daughters to go around! As for Lady Catherine, what can I say? She just did not respect the course and the other racers, and she’s paid for that. We’ll have to wait another four years to see whether Miss de Bourgh will ever get a husband. Bob?
We open on three girls, a couch, and Laura Linney looking oddly solemn.
[Frank Churchill proposes a ball]
Miss Osborne: Oh, I do love a ball! (TM Lydia Bennet)
Miss Osborne: Does she not have a ballroom or a dining room in her house?
[Frank sweeps Emma up for an impromptu dance]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: They would not have been doing that.
Miss Ball: “I would much better be married than right”: words to live by?
[Frank acts like he's going to propose and then doesn't]
Miss Osborne: Why can’t people tell the truth? This is annoying.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Like you tell the truth all the time?
Miss Osborne: Well, he’s acting like he loves her.
Miss Osborne: And he has a man-ring.
[Harriet bawls her eyes out]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Harriet’s such a modern teenage girl. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the internet or TV to distract her with a massive gallery of males.
[Mrs. Elton arrives]
Miss Osborne: Ohhhhh, it’s THAT girl. She plays the bitch in everything!
Miss Ball: Like?
Miss Osborne: Like What a Girl Wants, which I only saw because of Colin Firth. And, um, Amanda Bynes.
Miss Ball: No, I saw that, too! With the leather pants! Amanda Bynes is my hero(ine), and I don’t care who knows it.
[Mr. Knightley brought Emma a library book]
Miss Osborne: It’s Twilight.
[Misses Osborne and Ball and Mrs.Fitzpatrick pause to discuss crooked ears, including but not limited to Stephen Colbert and Victor Garber. Mrs. Fitzpatrick has perfect, delicate ears. She's the only one.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think I’ll start calling Mr. Fitzpatrick “Mr. F”, like Mrs. Elton does.
Miss Ball: Like he’s a substitute teacher with a difficult name?
[Misses Osborne and Ball and Mrs.Fitzpatrick pause to discuss the technical term for Emma's face-framing curls, which Mrs. Fitzpatrick calls "scare curls" but thinks she made that up. Google tells us this.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Now, this is weird, because in the book, Mrs. Elton suggests the whole Box Hill expedition, and Emma doesn’t seem particularly sad about being stuck in Highbury.
Miss Ball: It’s a modern take on the situation, certainly.
[Mrs. Elton has quite a horror of finery.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Too matchy-matchy?
Miss Ball: Bridesmaid quality, definitely.
Miss Osborne: The voice-over is worse than Superman.
Miss Ball: I do miss the choreographed group dancing.
[Frank disses Mrs. Elton's hairstyle]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: He is a little…dickish.
Miss Ball: Catty.
Miss Osborne: A douchebag.
[Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance]
Miss Ball: Mr. Knightley! You’re the dreamiest man the world right now! Such a mensch!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Isn’t he?
Miss Osborne: I like the idea of wearing gloves. That way you don’t get sweaty hands.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Plus, it’s more sexy.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think they’re doing the Congress of Vienna waltz.
Miss Osborne: I can do the polka!
Miss Ball: Me, too!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I wonder how authentic the dancing in this really is?
Miss Ball: We’re totally ruining the mood of this very romantic dance.
[Harriet gushes about Frank's rescue of her from the scary scary gypsies]
Miss Osborne: Harriet’s so pale, she could be a vampire.
Miss Ball: Don’t say that out loud.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: There’s already going to be Emma and werewolves.
Miss Osborne: Um, did she just faint?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I think Jane had a thing against fainting—it never really works out in her books.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: If this were a murder mystery, Harriet would be shot dead now.
[The camera cuts, inexplicably, behind Mr. Knightley's coat as he reminisces about Emma's hotness]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: SIGH.
[Mr. Knightley walks away from Emma and the too-hot fire]
Mrs. F: Well, I definitely liked this chapter better—now that she’s not so incredibly bouncy.
Miss Ball: And now that the story’s picking up, minus Exposition City.
Miss Osborne: Augh, when he yells at her, he’s so right, and it’s so horrible, because we’ve all been yelled at by somebody we care at like that. So terrible.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: And they’re…following the book. Such a concept!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: It’s weird how little Mr. Woodhouse is in this version. Usually, he’s in the background of everything.
Miss Osborne: Maybe Michael Gambon’s pterodactyl arms wouldn’t fit in the picture.
The Austenacious sisters are too old-school (so far) to be on Twitter, so we decided to have our own live new-Emma-watching/blogging party. And the opening credits roll . . .
Miss Ball: This is all very Pushing Daisies, isn’t it? There goes Mom.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Frank and Jane’s sending-away is so much more emotional than it is in the book.
[Everyone grows up. Quickly. Thank goodness, all this exposition is getting boring.]
Miss Osborne: Who does Emma look like to you guys?
Miss Osborne: Did they really wear big bows on their backs? (Consensus: Not sure.)
Miss Osborne: No cake for the wedding? Well, that’s just crazy. Turn it off! I’m done.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: The thing about Michael Gambon is, it’s hard to believe he can be as stupid as Mr. Woodhouse after being Dumbledore.
All: Boo hoo! Loneliness and tinkly pianos! SLO-MO CHILDREN! Too cheesy!
Miss Osborne: Romola Garai’s not as stately or graceful as I expected Emma to be.
[Emma visits Mrs. Goddard's school.]
Miss Ball: Gypsies! Ooh, foreshadowing!
Miss Ball: That hat’s like a bell. How is it staying on her head?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: What? A scene from the book? And only twenty-five minutes in!
Miss Osborne: I’ve got it! Drew Barrymore meets Starbuck!
Miss Ball: It’s the mouth.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Who? Oh, Romola. But what about Harriet Smith? She reminds me of someone.
Miss Osborne: She was in something called Lesbian Vampire Killers!
Miss Osborne: Mr. Martin’s got mutton chops to rival Mr. Darcy’s!
Miss Osborne: Gotta love a field trip to see the poor.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Well, they’re making much more of deal about it than in the book.
Miss Osborne: I realize that the refusal of Mr. Martin is straight from the book, but it makes me want to barf.
[Painting on the lawn.]
Miss Ball: Oh, Jane. You and your crazy dads.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Oh! Harriet Smith reminds me of the chick from Doctor Horrible.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: I can see Emma’s roots. I can see! Her roots!
Miss Osborne: Check out Elton. Boyfriend’s a close-talker. Three feet, dude.
Mr. Knightley: Robert Martin! Is that you?
Miss Osborne: . . . nobody here by that name . . .
[Emma and Mr. Knightley fight.]
Miss Ball: I like Emma’s yellow wallpaper. Just not in the Charlotte Perkins Gilman sense.
Miss Osborne: Jonny Lee Miller just made a Muppet face.
Miss Osborne: Well, I think Emma’s right. So many men do want pretty and ditzy. So why shouldn’t everyone fall for Harriet Smith.
Miss Ball: I just want to watch him make more faces.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: She makes the same argument in the book.
Miss Ball: I like Romola Garai.
[Emma and Harriet manage two pages of reading.]
Miss Ball: Two pages of Milton? I think she deserves a cookie.
[Emma explains her life plans to Harriet.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Well, Emma’s ideal situation is Jane Austen’s situation: a well-to-do old maid with nieces.
Miss Osborne: I take umbrage at the “old maid” label. She died at forty-one!
Miss Osborne: I don’t even really understand why Emma’s friends with Harriet. She’s dumb!
Miss Ball: Haven’t you seen Clueless? She wants to better Harriet.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: It would be like living your whole life with the people you went to elementary school with. Not much of a choice, right?
[Dinner party at the Westons]
Miss Osborne: Michael Gambon has the biggest basketball-player arms in all of movies, and he’s always flailing them around like a pterodactyl.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Mrs. Weston has a maid now. She should have better hair. And stop looking defeated. Because she isn’t.
Miss Ball: I sort of love Elton. I totally know that guy.
Miss Osborne: Wow, that CGI snow is terrible. It’s like a bad screen saver.
Miss Ball: Flying toasters.
Miss Osborne: Why is Elton so sweaty? It’s SNOWING.
[The Great Miss Fairfax Live and In Person!]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Hmmm. They changed Jane Fairfax almost getting thrown overboard from a boat to Jane Fairfax almost . . . slipping on a rock? Must have been too expensive.
[Emma and Harriet meet Frank on the road.]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Apart from that not being the way Emma and Frank meet, it’s just. . . all wrong. She’s so flirty with him!
[Emma and Frank meet officially.]
Miss Osborne: Dude is short!
Miss Ball: And not much of a looker. Which Frank Churchill should be, right? (Consensus.)
[And . . . the episode sort of peters out. Not much dramatic closure of any type.]
Miss Ball: 3 out of 5 start
Miss Osborne: Meh
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Can we watch figure skating now?
Overall, it’s not great, but not bad. The scene changes are achingly obvious, and they do love to make a point, then drive it home, in case you didn’t get it the first time. Kind of an Emma for Dummies. Romola’s giving Emma a good go: we couldn’t agree on whether she was acting smart enough, but do think she should be more refined. More conclusions pending the next episode(s). Readers, your gut reactions?