Monday, July 13, 2015

Emma- Week 1 (Chapters 1-5)

The first week of the 200th Anniversary Emma Read-along is over! Hopefully we all made it through five chapters. Personally I was ready to sail through more and get ahead... but I resisted. I'm way too fast of a reader. :(
Here's a few questions to ponder and you can put your answers in the comments below or feel free to post on your blog about it too. I will be stealing some of my questions from Peter Leithart's book Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen, which is my favorite book to read on Austen's novels and I would highly recommend it.
  1. What's your first impression of the characters? Emma? Mr. Knightley? Harriet? Etc. 
  2. In the fifth chapter Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston (aka poor Miss Taylor) have a conversation about Emma and her friendship with Harriet? Do you agree with Mr. Knightley or Mrs. Weston? Does this conversation change your opinion about Emma in any way? 
  3. What do you think are Emma's motivations for her friendship with Harriet? 
  4. How do the conditions of Highbury contribute to Emma's character? 
Feel free to add any other thoughts you might have to the discussion! Also, not everyone has read this before so try to keep spoilers to a minimum. :)

This next week we are reading chapters 6-10. Don't worry if you fall behind. :)

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19 comments:

  1. I always find myself agreeing much more with Mr. Knightley than with Mrs. Weston in that "Harriet Smith" argument . . . It always kind of disturbs me that Mrs. Weston seems so very reluctant to admit that Emma does, indeed, have serious faults and could benefit from a little more discipline and guidance. Well, okay, you can't really discipline a 21-year-old . . . but you can TELL them when they are doing wrong, and Mrs. Weston just doesn't want to do that.

    "No, no; she has qualities which may be trusted; she will never lead anyone really wrong; she will make no lasting blunder; when Emma errs once, she is in the right an hundred times." See, she's practically admitting that Emma MAY, in fact, be making a mistake here--but she's not going to interfere because "dear Emma will never lead anyone really wrong."

    Well, maybe she won't and maybe she WILL. We'll just have to keep reading and see.

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    1. I agree. In my opinion, I think Mrs. Weston thinks she is being a good friend by always supporting Emma but in reality she's failing as a friend because she's never really willing to point out Emma's errors to her.

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    2. Yeah, and it makes me sad, because Mrs. Weston is such a nice person and I WANT her to do the right thing . . . But, like you said, I think she honestly doesn't realize what a big mistake she's making. So it's not like she's doing it on purpose. But thank goodness Emma has Mr. Knightley, too, or otherwise I think she would be TOTALLY lost.

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  2. I'm sorry to say, I'm still not sure if I'll actually be joining on this venture or not…I've got a lot of to-read books on my list for summer already:( But even if I don't participate, I will definitely enjoy the posts!:)

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    1. No problem. :) Got to make time for CTM. ;)

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  3. I can't believe 5 chapters have gone by. I actually wanted to read ahead too, but reading (actually rereading) a book slowly and really enjoying it has been a nice experience. :)

    From first time I read Emma, I didn't really remember the characters, so in a way, I felt I was looking at the characters for the first time. For example, Harriet's innocence and ignorance really stand out. I kind of got annoyed at her (even though I probably shouldn't have) when Emma started saying how comely Mr. Martin was and how he didn't compare with Mr. Elton. I wanted Harriet to stand up for Mr. Martin, but got upset when she gave in to Emma. Maybe I got upset about Emma saying how Mr. Elton was such a fine man, but I guess that's what happens when you know the ending. :)

    I kind of agree with Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley. For right now, Emma and Harriet's friendship is good, which is why I agree with Mrs. Weston. In the future, the friendship will not be good, which is why I agree with Mr. Knightley.

    I can't wait for the next five chapters! :)

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  4. It's hard looking at Mrs. Weston's and Mr. Knightley's conversation in retrospect and wondering what I would think the first time I read it, knowing the conclusion.
    I agree. I especially noticed Harriet this time. She is so easily persuaded and definitely flatters Emma way too much.

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  5. This time around I was realizing again just HOW awful Emma's behavior really is! :) Honestly, with her attitudes (looking down on Robert Martin, etc.) she really bears a strong resemblance to the Bingley sisters in P&P or the Elliots in Persuasion; and then trying to rearrange other people's emotions according to her own ideas of the world, in essence "playing" with their affections she almost has a similarity to the Crawfords in MP. And yet Austen somehow makes us interested in her and rooting for her character change. Amazing.

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    1. You put my thought's so perfectly Heidi! Emma is really annoying me this time around! Those are good comparisons with the Bingley sisters and the Elliots. And the Crawfords! Good points! She's definitely playing with affections here.
      I think Austen definitely wrote her most complex heroine in Emma.
      As we get further along we'll talk about different techniques Austen uses to make us still care about Emma.

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  6. Very excited to participate in 'Emma' Read-along... I did finish first 5 chapters within hours and had to resist myself from reading further :D.

    In my opinion,Emma's behavior is strongly affected by her good fortune and social status. She feels superior to anyone with unpolished manners or lower status. I think, Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston are responsible for Emma's imprudent actions. Emma alone can't be blamed as we see many spoiled rich youngsters who lack the proper guidance nowadays.

    Harriet and I belong to the same category, easily influenced/ persuaded group ;).

    Happy Reading!

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    1. I definitely think Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston's indulgence of Emma is partially responsible for Emma's actions but she also has Mr. Knightley trying to help her so I still think a good chunk of it is Emma's wish to follow one person's guidance over another's.

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  7. I'm not actually reading along, but I'm enjoying reading your post and everyone's responses!

    One thought I had, regarding Mrs. Weston not guiding Emma as perhaps she ought -- isn't she exactly the opposite of Lady Russell in Persuasion? Lady Russell guides Anne Elliot too much, and Mrs. Weston guides Emma too little. Mentors and friends need to be a happy medium, I think.

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    1. YES! Why did I not ever realize that before? Mrs. Weston basically allows Emma to live her life however she wants, without any real attempts to correct or advise her--while Lady Russell tries to FORCE Anne to live her life the way she (Lady Russell) thinks is best. Neither method is correct.

      Now I'm starting to wonder . . . can anyone think of a really good female "mentor" character in any of Austen's novels? I'm trying and I'm drawing a blank--oh, wait, there's Mrs. Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice. Although she, like Elizabeth, is definitely taken in by Wickham, she still warns Lizzy not to marry him because she feels it's an unsuitable match. And she helps talk Lizzy through her feelings about Jane and Mr. Bingley. So I guess she's kind of a mentor character. But she's the only female example I can think of.

      I guess what I'm trying to say is, most of Austen's heroines seem to have to struggle along without a good mother or even a good female mentor to help them through their problems. Why is that? Maybe it reflects Austen's own life? Or maybe she just thought it made a more interesting story?

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    2. There aren't a lot of good mentor characters of any sort in all of Austen, and very few happily-married couples. Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner in P&P and Admiral & Mrs. Croft in Persuasion are the only two I can think of at the moment -- and they are all 4 of them sensible, kind, and good mentors. Coincidence that they are happily married? I think not.

      Mr. Knightley is a pretty good mentor for Emma, though, and Colonel Brandon is such a good friend to Elinor in S&S. And of course, Henry Tilney and his sister both mentor Catherine in Northanger Abbey.

      Other people jump in here! I feel like I'm forgetting some wise mentors AND some happily-married couples.

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    3. I am loving this discussion! What a great point Hamlette! Mrs. Weston and Lady Russell are very much the opposite.
      I do think a lot of the great mentors in Austen's novels are the happily married couples but definitely also Colonel Brandon, Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney and Eleanor Tilney. I'm trying to think of others but my memory is failing me! In Mansfield Park I feel like Fanny is a lot on her own though she has Edmund some of the time but even Edmund is lead astray. When it comes to Fanny though, she does such a great job of marking her own decisions though sometimes I feel sorry for her because all she has to turn to is herself most of the time.
      I think you guys have mentioned all of the the other good mentors in Austen's novels.

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    4. You know, Fanny is kind of the mentor figure, isn't she? Or rather, she has the capability of being a mentor for the others, guiding them with her better judgement, but they ignore her.

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    5. Yes, even though I usually think of "mentors" as being older, Fanny actually is a really good mentor to her younger sister Susan (I LOVE their relationship, BTW)--and she could be a great mentor for the other characters, too, like Edmund and Maria and Julia, if only they'd listen to her. Nobody listens to Fanny. It's sad :(

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    6. I absolutely agree Hamlette! Fann is definitely a mentor figure but unfortunately no one pays heed to her words of wisdom. :(

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  8. I think that Edmond's mentoring of Fanny when she was a child ended up helping form her character. Later Fanny helped Edmund after he was duped by the Crawfords. My goodness, even Edmund's father was duped by them and he should have seen through them since he was supposed to be older and wiser. Maybe the fact that even Edmund's father was fooled is supposed to cause the reader to cut Edmund a little more slack. :)

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