Thinking about Attitudes in Austen
1. Why would Jane Austen have been interested in writing about marriage?
Jane Austen would have been interested in writing about marriage as it was the situation of which everything in society in her times evolved around. Social status, family ties, financial status and character were all judged on the basis of if they would be suitable for marriage and therefore it was a key issue in Jane Austen’s time and the expectations of both women and men were extremely demanding. As Jane Austen belonged to the middle-class, it would have been a situation affectng herself and she would be able to write about what she saw around her and how such great expectations rendered various situations.
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2. Why was Frank brought up by his aunt and uncle?
Frank’s aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Churchill were unable to have children. When Frank’s mother died due to illness, Mr Weston handed Frank over to Mr and Mrs Churchill as they could offer him a better lifestyle and also proposed to settle the rift between Mr Weston and themselves. Mr Weston being very laid back, excepted their offer as it allowed him to get on with his life and he is also a character who greatly dislikes conflict and therefore this arrangement would mean he had no enemies.
3. Why is it important that Frank should visit his new stepmother, the ex-Miss Taylor?
It is important that Frank should visit his new stepmother as it suggests that he approves of the marriage between Miss Taylor and Mr Weston. If Frank does not visit his stepmother and father, then he would be implying that he does not find Miss Taylor to be a suitable or appropriate match for his father. This would be a grave insult to both Miss Taylor and his father.
4. Why does Jane Fairfax need to work as a governess?
As Jane was orphaned as a child, she has no parents to provide for her financially and the money she inherited from her parents was not sufficient for her to persue an independant life. Her only blood relatives Mrs and Miss Bates are of very good nature and heart but are not rich and therefore cannot give Jane a stable life. When Jane’s father died, she was taken under the wing of the Col. Campbell and his family. Col. Campbell is aware that he cannot support Jane as well as his own daughter throughout her life, as although rich he is not rich enough to provide for both girls, so he decides that he shall fund her education which will prepare her to be a governess which will ensure she will be able to look after herself.
5. Why is Harriet’s parentage an issue for Mr Elton but not for Robert Martin?
Mr Elton is quite the social climber. It is obvious throughout the novel that Mr Elton only wants to marry a rich woman of high social rank and does not feel that love is crucial to matrimony. Harriet is described to be, ‘ the natural daughter of somebody’ which suggests that she is an orphan, with no social or family links and is also not in a respectable financial state. Harriet therefore has none of the ‘qualities’ that Mr Elton is searching for in a marriage and as Harriet has no claim to social greatness or money he does not consider her an appropriate match. Robert Martin on the other hand, appears to be a good natured man who has disgarded Harriet’s parentage as he is genuinely in love with her ( which is apparent on various occasions such as when he travelled three miles to get Harriet some walnuts after she said she was fond of them). There are two reasons why Robert Martin finds Harriet a suitable match whereas Mr Elton does not. Firtsly Robert Martin is of lower social class than Mr Elton and therefore Harriet could be seen to be a more appropriate match. Unlike Mr Elton, Robert Martin is not interested in enfranchising himself and would much rather marry for love, which he sees in Harriet.
6. Is marrying for money a bad thing?
Marrying for money was not frowned upon in Jane Austen’s time as it perhaps is now-a-days, as it offered security and was therefore a sensible thing to do. An example of this is when Mr Elton married Miss Hawkins. From the marriage he gains his financial stability and is promoted in social rank. However, as Jane Austen makes it clear through her novel ‘ Emma’, the successful marriages are those which are based on love. In Austen’s opinion, marriage should consist of money aswell as love.
7. Why should Emma b e kinder to Jane Fairfax accoring to Mr Knightley?
Due to Jane’s situation in life, Emma should realise that Jane is in a very unstable situation with the only possibile futre ahead of her being a governess. Therefore Emma should take into account her own superior position and respect Jane’s more difficult choices and be more encourageing and friendly to Jane whilst she is still has some ‘upperclass’ respectabilty.
8. Why is calling Mr Knightley ‘Knightley’ a sign of Mrs Elton’s bad breeding?
Mr Knightley is one of the ‘top dogs’ in Highbury. He owns a great deal of land, is financially well off and is of high social status. Therefore, almost every resident of Highbury, even his close friends call his Mr Knightley out of respect and curtousey. Mrs Elton however is the exception and calls Mr Knightley ‘Knightley’ even though she has only met him on few occasions and is not his superior. This highlights Mrs Elton’s bad breeding and shows that she thinks herself to be of a greater situation and character than she actually is.
What kind of actions do you think are considered ‘good manners’ in the novel?
Good manners evolve from respect. One should respect others and be aware of your own and the people surrounding’s status and not disrespect them according to their status, or act superior to your own status. Mrs Elton in an example of a character with bad manners. By treating everyone around her as though they were inferior to herself when she is not in a position to do so, renders her rude and bad mannered. Mrs Elton’s husband is also bad mannered and this is apparent in his proposal to Emma.
He ‘makes violent love to her’ in the process of asking her to marry him by bombarding her with rushed suggestions and inappropriate proposals. When Elton is refused by Miss Woodhouse, he asks in a very rude and embarassed way towards her and only a month later is married to another woman. Mr Robert Martin however showed to be of good manners when he wrote an extremely polite and flattering letter to Miss Smith asking for her hand of marriage. When, due to Emma’s influence Harriet rejects his offer, Robert Martin, although upset acts politely and aimiabley towards her. He does not go looking for another wife, he stays true to her which prooves to be the better choice as he ends up marrying her.
Examples of good manners:
* Emma visiting the poor
* Knightley asking Harriet to dance
* Weston asking Emma’s and other residents’ opinion on his ballroom
* The Bates keeping Mr Woodhouse company
Examples of bad manners:
* Mr Elton refusing to dance with Harriet
* Mrs Elton offering to introduce Emma to her society (dubbing her a country girl with no real social connections)
* Frank delaying his visit
* Emma refusing to get involved with the Martins
9. Make a list of things that women did to occupy themselves other than working.
Match-making ( Emma in particular)
Going for walks
Socialising with neighbours/ other residents
Going shopping in town
Presenting/ Practising musical talents (such as playing the piano or singing)
10. Make a list of jobs men do in the novel
Robert Martin – farmer
Mr Perry – apocery
Mr Elton – Parish priest
Mr Weston – ex-military man to commerce
Col. Campbell – military
11. What was the difference between the way inherited money is seen, as compared to money which is earned?
If one inherited a substantial amount of money, you were garanteed a succesful life, rich in social ties and stability. However if on was to earn money, you did not gain social superiority. Working for money instead of inheriting money was seen as a bad thing, especially if you were a woman as it denied you social rank and suggested that your parentage was not an appropriate one.
12. How do people get to know each other? Look at a character like Frank – how does Frank get to known people in Highbury society ? Think about balance between public and private – how many oppertunities are people given to talk intimately to each other?
People get acquianted with each other through mutal friends. For example Frank get’s introduced to Emma and Mr Woodhouse through Mr and Mrs Weston. Once Frank has establish links with a few residents, he is then invited to dinners and balls at which he meets more residents of Highbury. Therefore it is through private connections that one emerges in to the public society of a place such as Highbury. However, it is rather difficult to get acquainted intimately with someone if they are of the opposite sex as it was not socially respectably for men and women to be left alone together unless they are going to get married. The chances of talking intimately to someone else was therefore slim as the only socially acceptable place to talk to someone else would be in the company of others.
Good and Bad characteristics in Emma:
Handsome/ Pretty: Personal appearance is very important in Austen’s opinion. She often talks of characters being ‘very plain’ or of boasting no beauty which suggests that being handsome is a great advantage. Frank is an example of a character which is described as ‘very good looking’ which through Emma’s and Austen’s eyes is a great asset. Harriet is also describes as being pretty and it is her beauty that intriges Emma and is really the original basis of their friendship.
Likeable: Miss Bates is a likeable character. Although she is ugly,poor and unmarried she only thinks of other people’s well being and it is down to this that she get’s on so well with the characters
Straight-talking: A straight talking character is Mr Knightley. He says exactly what he means and feels and does not falsely flatter others like characters such as Frank Churchill and Mr Elton do. This shows Knightley to be an honest character.
Well-bred: Frank Churchill is well-bred. Being well-bred instantly means you are of high social rank and have the public respect of others, even if you have a disagreeing character
Polite: Being polite, although not essential to those of the higher social status, it allows a character to be more favourable. The Coles, acquire a good reputation after their dinner party at which they are polite to all their guests. One of these polite traits is when the Coles order a wind shield so that Mr Woodhouse would not worry about the cold drafts
Sensible: Mr Knightley is very sensible and it is clear that he uses his logical nature to approach situations in the most efficient way possible. For example when it starts to snow when they are all at Randalls, whilst other characters are fussing and jumping to conclusions, Mr Knightley goes outside, observes the depth of snow further down the road and concludes that it would do the party no harm to travel in the snow.
Sociable: Being sociable in Austen’s eyes is an important characteristic. Emma is very sociable and is always organising visits or visiting others. If you had many social connections, your social rank is greatened.
Sweet-natured: Robert Martin is a sweet-natured character. In persuing Harriet’s love, he goes to out of his way to ensure her happiness. When she rejects his proposal of marriage, Harriet expects him to be bitter and rude but he is the opposite. When they next meet, he is polite and kind, suggesting an alternate route to her usual one so that she avoids the mud
Talented: Being talented means that you are able to show off your talents such as when Jane and Emma play the piano and sing for their company. They are rewarded with much praise as they entertained their guests
Boastful: Mrs Elton often boasts of her family’s status, her spouse and her taste. This makes her extremely unfavourable with the others as through boasting she is suggesting that she is better off than the other residents.
Pompous/ Conceited: Mrs Elton is very pompous as she constantly exhibits her self-importance. The effect is the same as her boastfulness, it makes other characters feel that she treats them as her inferior when she is not and this results in her being an unfavourable character
Silly: Harriet is perhaps the silliest character in Emma. She is not clever at all and it is her lack of intellect that get’s her in trouble. For example, when she is approached by gypsies, Harriet instead of acting sensibley, starts screaming and pannicking, making her more appealing for the gypsies. Another example is through her idolosing of Emma which results in Emma’s thoughts filling the ‘many vacancies of Harriet’s mind’
Taciturn: Not saying much in the company of others makes conversation quite awkuard and difficult for those in a taciturnal peron’s company. Jane Fairfax is very reserved and Emma picks up on this and exposes it as a very bad characterisitic.
Uncritical : Isabella Woodhouse is a very uncritical character, especially of her husband. Being uncritical of her husband results in him doing and saying whatever he pleases which can results in offending situations to other members of her family. Mr Woodhouse is also uncritical of his daughter Emma which results in her thinking very highly, perhaps too highly of herself which is shown in her snobbery.
Talkative: Being as talkative as Miss Bates is seen as a bad characteristic as although she means well and she is always flattering and complimenting others, she does not let others speak and that makes other characters feel uncomfortable
Proud: Emma is a very proud character which can make her quite snobbish and insulting to other characters.
A Gossip – Light gossip in Austen’s eyes is seen as being safe and Miss Bates is an example of a character who enlightens others with light gossip. However characters such as Emma use gossip to insult and harm others. Such as when her and Frank’s gossiping session results in the decision that Jane is in love with Mr Dixon. Janes becomes aware of their joke and gets very upset
Judgemental – If one has good judgement such as Mr Knightley, who does not rush to form judgements, being judgmental is a good characteristic as it helps one avoid uncomfortable situations and be aware of the nature of certain characters. However Emma is very judgemental and always jumps to conclusions. Her being judgemental leads her into bad situations such as Harriet and Mr Martin’s temporary yet great unhappiness.