The Community in Emma

In an essay of 400 to 500 words Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the community in Emma. (Answer question from the book)

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Austen, Jane
Published: 1816
Categorie(s): Fiction, Romance
Source: Wikisource
About Austen:
Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works include Sense and Sensibility, Pride
and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and
Persuasion. Her biting social commentary and masterful use of
both free indirect speech and irony eventually made Austen
one of the most influential and honored novelists in English Literature. Source: Wikipedia
available on Feedbooks for Austen:
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Persuasion (1818)
Mansfield Park (1814)
Northanger Abbey (1817)
Lady Susan (1794)
Juvenilia – Volume II (1790)
Juvenilia – Volume I (1790)
Juvenilia – Volume III (1790)
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Part 1
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the
best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one
years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her
sister’s marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early
period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more
than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place
had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who
had fallen little short of a mother in affection.
Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the
intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold
the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper
had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and
Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss
Taylor’s judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.
The real evils, indeed, of Emma’s situation were the power of
having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think
a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which
threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger,
however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by
any means rank as misfortunes with her.
Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of
any disagreeable consciousness.—Miss Taylor married. It was
Miss Taylor’s loss which first brought grief. It was on the
wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in
mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and
the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine
together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening.
Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual,
and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.
The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr.
Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune,
suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it
was a black morning’s work for her. The want of Miss Taylor
would be felt every hour of every day. She recalled her past
kindness—the kindness, the affection of sixteen years—how
she had taught and how she had played with her from five
years old—how she had devoted all her powers to attach and
amuse her in health—and how nursed her through the various
illnesses of childhood. A large debt of gratitude was owing
here; but the intercourse of the last seven years, the equal
footing and perfect unreserve which had soon followed
Isabella’s marriage, on their being left to each other, was yet a
dearer, tenderer recollection. She had been a friend and companion such as few possessed: intelligent, well-informed, useful, gentle, knowing all the ways of the family, interested in all
its concerns, and peculiarly interested in herself, in every
pleasure, every scheme of hers—one to whom she could speak
every thought as it arose, and who had such an affection for
her as could never find fault.
How was she to bear the change?—It was true that her friend
was going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware
that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only
half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with
all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great
danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved
her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not
meet her in conversation, rational or playful.
The evil of the actual disparity in their ages (and Mr. Woodhouse had not married early) was much increased by his constitution and habits; for having been a valetudinarian all his
life, without activity of mind or body, he was a much older man
in ways than in years; and though everywhere beloved for the
friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper, his talents
could not have recommended him at any time.
Her sister, though comparatively but little removed by matrimony, being settled in London, only sixteen miles off, was
much beyond her daily reach; and many a long October and
November evening must be struggled through at Hartfield, before Christmas brought the next visit from Isabella and her
husband, and their little children, to fill the house, and give her
pleasant society again.
Highbury, the large and populous village, almost amounting
to a town, to which Hartfield, in spite of its separate lawn, and
shrubberies, and name, did really belong, afforded her no
equals. The Woodhouses were first in consequence there. All
looked up to them. She had many acquaintance in the place,
for her father was universally civil, but not one among them
who could be accepted in lieu of Miss Taylor for even half a
day. It was a melancholy change; and Emma could not but sigh
over it, and wish for impossible things, till her father awoke,
and made it necessary to be cheerful. His spirits required support. He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of every
body that he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating
change of every kind. Matrimony, as the origin of change, was
always disagreeable; and he was by no means yet reconciled to
his own daughter’s marrying, nor could ever speak of her but
with compassion, though it had been entirely a match of affection, when he was now obliged to part with Miss Taylor too;
and from his habits of gentle selfishness, and of being never
able to suppose that other people could feel differently from
himself, he was very much disposed to think Miss Taylor had
done as sad a thing for herself as for them, and would have
been a great deal happier if she had spent all the rest of her
life at Hartfield. Emma smiled and chatted as cheerfully as she
could, to keep him from such thoughts; but when tea came, it
was impossible for him not to say exactly as he had said at
“Poor Miss Taylor!—I wish she were here again. What a pity
it is that Mr. Weston ever thought of her!”
“I cannot agree with you, papa; you know I cannot. Mr. Weston is such a good-humoured, pleasant, excellent man, that he
thoroughly deserves a good wife;—and you would not have had
Miss Taylor live with us for ever, and bear all my odd humours,
when she might have a house of her own?”
“A house of her own!—But where is the advantage of a house
of her own? This is three times as large.—And you have never
any odd humours, my dear.”
“How often we shall be going to see them, and they coming
to see us!—We shall be always meeting! We must begin; we
must go and pay wedding visit very soon.”
“My dear, how am I to get so far? Randalls is such a distance.
I could not walk half so far.”
“No, papa, nobody thought of your walking. We must go in
the carriage, to be sure.”
“The carriage! But James will not like to put the horses to for
such a little way;—and where are the poor horses to be while
we are paying our visit?”
“They are to be put into Mr. Weston’s stable, papa. You know
we have settled all that already. We talked it all over with Mr.
Weston last night. And as for James, you may be very sure he
will always like going to Randalls, because of his daughter’s
being housemaid there. I only doubt whether he will ever take
us anywhere else. That was your doing, papa. You got Hannah
that good place. Nobody thought of Hannah till you mentioned
her—James is so obliged to you!”
“I am very glad I did think of her. It was very lucky, for I
would not have had poor James think himself slighted upon any
account; and I am sure she will make a very good servant: she
is a civil, pretty-spoken girl; I have a great opinion of her.
Whenever I see her, she always curtseys and asks me how I do,
in a very pretty manner; and when you have had her here to do
needlework, I observe she always turns the lock of the door the
right way and never bangs it. I am sure she will be an excellent
servant; and it will be a great comfort to poor Miss Taylor to
have somebody about her that she is used to see. Whenever
James goes over to see his daughter, you know, she will be
hearing of us. He will be able to tell her how we all are.”
Emma spared no exertions to maintain this happier flow of
ideas, and hoped, by the help of backgammon, to get her father
tolerably through the evening, and be attacked by no regrets
but her own. The backgammon-table was placed; but a visitor
immediately afterwards walked in and made it unnecessary.
Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-andthirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family,
but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of
Isabella’s husband. He lived about a mile from Highbury, was a
frequent visitor, and always welcome, and at this time more
welcome than usual, as coming directly from their mutual connexions in London. He had returned to a late dinner, after
some days’ absence, and now walked up to Hartfield to say that
all were well in Brunswick Square. It was a happy circumstance, and animated Mr. Woodhouse for some time. Mr.
Knightley had a cheerful manner, which always did him good;
and his many inquiries after “poor Isabella” and her children
were answered most satisfactorily. When this was over, Mr.
Woodhouse gratefully observed, “It is very kind of you, Mr.
Knightley, to come out at this late hour to call upon us. I am
afraid you must have had a shocking walk.”
“Not at all, sir. It is a beautiful moonlight night; and so mild
that I must draw back from your great fire.”
“But you must have found it very damp and dirty. I wish you
may not catch cold.”
“Dirty, sir! Look at my shoes. Not a speck on them.”
“Well! that is quite surprising, for we have had a vast deal of
rain here. It rained dreadfully hard for half an hour while we
were at breakfast. I wanted them to put off the wedding.”
“By the bye—I have not wished you joy. Being pretty well
aware of what sort of joy you must both be feeling, I have been
in no hurry with my congratulations; but I hope it all went off
tolerably well. How did you all behave? Who cried most?”
“Ah! poor Miss Taylor! ‘Tis a sad business.”
“Poor Mr. and Miss Woodhouse, if you please; but I cannot
possibly say `poor Miss Taylor.’ I have a great regard for you
and Emma; but when it comes to the question of dependence
or independence!—At any rate, it must be better to have only
one to please than two.”
“Especially when one of those two is such a fanciful, troublesome creature!” said Emma playfully. “That is what you have in
your head, I know—and what you would certainly say if my
father were not by.”
“I believe it is very true, my dear, indeed,” said Mr. Woodhouse, with a sigh. “I am afraid I am sometimes very fanciful
and troublesome.”
“My dearest papa! You do not think I could mean you, or suppose Mr. Knightley to mean you. What a horrible idea! Oh no! I
meant only myself. Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me,
you know— in a joke—it is all a joke. We always say what we
like to one another.”
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could
see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told
her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to
Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her
father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.
“Emma knows I never flatter her,” said Mr. Knightley, “but I
meant no reflection on any body. Miss Taylor has been used to
have two persons to please; she will now have but one. The
chances are that she must be a gainer.”
“Well,” said Emma, willing to let it pass—”you want to hear
about the wedding; and I shall be happy to tell you, for we all
behaved charmingly. Every body was punctual, every body in
their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen.
Oh no; we all felt that we were going to be only half a mile
apart, and were sure of meeting every day.”
“Dear Emma bears every thing so well,” said her father. “But,
Mr. Knightley, she is really very sorry to lose poor Miss Taylor,
and I am sure she will miss her more than she thinks for.”
Emma turned away her head, divided between tears and
smiles. “It is impossible that Emma should not miss such a
companion,” said Mr. Knightley. “We should not like her so
well as we do, sir, if we could suppose it; but she knows how
much the marriage is to Miss Taylor’s advantage; she knows
how very acceptable it must be, at Miss Taylor’s time of life, to
be settled in a home of her own, and how important to her to
be secure of a comfortable provision, and therefore cannot allow herself to feel so much pain as pleasure. Every friend of
Miss Taylor must be glad to have her so happily married.”
“And you have forgotten one matter of joy to me,” said
Emma, “and a very considerable one—that I made the match
myself. I made the match, you know, four years ago; and to
have it take place, and be proved in the right, when so many
people said Mr. Weston would never marry again, may comfort
me for any thing.”
Mr. Knightley shook his head at her. Her father fondly
replied, “Ah! my dear, I wish you would not make matches and
foretell things, for whatever you say always comes to pass.
Pray do not make any more matches.”
“I promise you to make none for myself, papa; but I must, indeed, for other people. It is the greatest amusement in the
world! And after such success, you know!—Every body said
that Mr. Weston would never marry again. Oh dear, no! Mr.
Weston, who had been a widower so long, and who seemed so
perfectly comfortable without a wife, so constantly occupied
either in his business in town or among his friends here, always acceptable wherever he went, always cheerful— Mr. Weston need not spend a single evening in the year alone if he did
not like it. Oh no! Mr. Weston certainly would never marry
again. Some people even talked of a promise to his wife on her
deathbed, and others of the son and the uncle not letting him.
All manner of solemn nonsense was talked on the subject, but I
believed none of it.
“Ever since the day—about four years ago—that Miss Taylor
and I met with him in Broadway Lane, when, because it began
to drizzle, he darted away with so much gallantry, and borrowed two umbrellas for us from Farmer Mitchell’s, I made up
my mind on the subject. I planned the match from that hour;
and when such success has blessed me in this instance, dear
papa, you cannot think that I shall leave off match-making.”
“I do not understand what you mean by `success,'” said Mr.
Knightley. “Success supposes endeavour. Your time has been
properly and delicately spent, if you have been endeavouring
for the last four years to bring about this marriage. A worthy
employment for a young lady’s mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your
planning it, your saying to yourself one idle day, `I think it
would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr. Weston were
to marry her,’ and saying it again to yourself every now and
then afterwards, why do you talk of success? Where is your
merit? What are you proud of? You made a lucky guess; and
that is all that can be said.”
“And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a
lucky guess?— I pity you.—I thought you cleverer—for, depend
upon it a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always
some talent in it. And as to my poor word `success,’ which you
quarrel with, I do not know that I am so entirely without any
claim to it. You have drawn two pretty pictures; but I think
there may be a third—a something between the do-nothing and
the do-all. If I had not promoted Mr. Weston’s visits here, and
given many little encouragements, and smoothed many little
matters, it might not have come to any thing after all. I think
you must know Hartfield enough to comprehend that.”
“A straightforward, open-hearted man like Weston, and a rational, unaffected woman like Miss Taylor, may be safely left to
manage their own concerns. You are more likely to have done
harm to yourself, than good to them, by interference.”
“Emma never thinks of herself, if she can do good to others,”
rejoined Mr. Woodhouse, understanding but in part. “But, my
dear, pray do not make any more matches; they are silly
things, and break up one’s family circle grievously.”
“Only one more, papa; only for Mr. Elton. Poor Mr. Elton!
You like Mr. Elton, papa,—I must look about for a wife for him.
There is nobody in Highbury who deserves him—and he has
been here a whole year, and has fitted up his house so comfortably, that it would be a shame to have him single any
longer—and I thought when he was joining their hands to-day,
he looked so very much as if he would like to have the same
kind office done for him! I think very well of Mr. Elton, and this
is the only way I have of doing him a service.”
“Mr. Elton is a very pretty young man, to be sure, and a very
good young man, and I have a great regard for him. But if you
want to shew him any attention, my dear, ask him to come and
dine with us some day. That will be a much better thing. I dare
say Mr. Knightley will be so kind as to meet him.”
“With a great deal of pleasure, sir, at any time,” said Mr.
Knightley, laughing, “and I agree with you entirely, that it will
be a much better thing. Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help
him to the best of the fish and the chicken, but leave him to
chuse his own wife. Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-andtwenty can take care of himself.”
Mr. Weston was a native of Highbury, and born of a respectable family, which for the last two or three generations had
been rising into gentility and property. He had received a good
education, but, on succeeding early in life to a small independence, had become indisposed for any of the more homely pursuits in which his brothers were engaged, and had satisfied an
active, cheerful mind and social temper by entering into the
militia of his county, then embodied.
Captain Weston was a general favourite; and when the
chances of his military life had introduced him to Miss
Churchill, of a great Yorkshire family, and Miss Churchill fell in
love with him, nobody was surprized, except her brother and
his wife, who had never seen him, and who were full of pride
and importance, which the connexion would offend.
Miss Churchill, however, being of age, and with the full command of her fortune—though her fortune bore no proportion to
the family-estate—was not to be dissuaded from the marriage,
and it took place, to the infinite mortification of Mr. and Mrs.
Churchill, who threw her off with due decorum. It was an un …
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