I’m introducing my parents and sister to the wonders of Downton Abbey, and we are slowly working our way through each season. This is my third time through the whole thing, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. There’s a scene in Season 4 that’s been floating in and out of my own mind all throughout Emma, that takes place downstairs in the kitchen.
The kitchen maids Daisy and Ivy and the footmen Alfred and Jimmy have some kind of love quadrangle (is that a thing?) going on. One likes another but the love isn’t returned because that person likes a different one. In exasperation over their tiffs and fits and sighs, the head cook Mrs. Patmore says, “The problem with you lot is that you’re all in love with the wrong people!”
I felt like saying the same thing to all the characters in Emma. Instead of Mr. Martin and Harriet getting together from the get-go like it seemed like they should, Emma tried to set up Harriet and that kept failing. Poor Harriet went along with it, desiring so much to please Emma and improve herself.
Mr. Frank Churchill seems to be pointing his affections in the direction of Emma, while Emma tries to steer Harriet in his direction. Mr. Knightley is friendly toward Emma, kind toward Harriet and in general very difficult to read. I knew somehow that in the end he and Emma did get together (spoiler!), so I was pulling for them through the whole thing.
Love is a funny thing, I suppose. I haven’t truly been in love, but I do know the sting of unreturned affection. I also know that the heart can want what the heart wants, even if it doesn’t make sense.
What did you think about how all the love stories worked out? Did you think they were good matches?
At the end of the last section we watched Emma’s snide remark hurt Miss Bates at the Box Hill picnic, and in this one we get to follow along as she anguished over it. I feel like in more modern stories Emma could have made such a comment, passed it off, and moved on without a second thought. It was impressive to me how much she regretted her treatment of Miss Bates and the pains she took to mend the relationship.
Conflict resolution and relationship repair can be such a cultural experience. The issue might be talked around rather than talked about, or a mediator might be needed. It might be perfectly acceptable in one place to talk about what brought the conflict about and openly forgive, where that might be unheard of in another place.
What did you think about the conflict resolution dynamics in Emma? How does that compare to your home culture or host culture?
Okay, I want to hear: what was your favorite part of this book?
I have to say that my favorite character was Harriet. It struck me how quick she was to forgive Emma and remain devoted to their friendship. I was so happy that she and Mr. Martin did indeed end up together since they seemed to make each other very happy.
Over to you, friends! Thank you for joining in this month as we read Emma together. I hope you’ll pop in again next month and keep our book discussions going!
In April we will be reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Here’s a description of the book from Amazon: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . the only way to survive is to open your heart.
Here’s the schedule:
April 7 – Chapters 1-9
April 14 – Chapters 10-19
April 21 – Chapters 20-29
April 28 – Chapters 30-41