Before I get to my well-argued (hah) argument, however, a few side notes for anyone planning to skip the 19th century stuff:
- I get to practice my skills at being judgemental and bitchy! A round of completely non-celebrity judges have been recruited for this project to help weed out the utter crap before it gets to the real celebrities. Apparently the serialized thriller/competition format was a total success at the Vancouver Province. Will it have legs in Edmonton?
- There’s something about filling out a passport application that makes me really excited. Like, ridiculously so, as I rip through pages of my address book to make sure I have the correct digits for my best friend’s latest abode. And yes, I had to tick off the box on the application indicating I have no firm plans for travel anytime soon. But I’m hoping to hit Italy and France this year, and Poland. Poland is where one of my other best friends lives now, and, according to my Lonely Planet guide to Europe on a shoestring, it’s a very cool place. “Poland’s relatively undeveloped coastline, with its attractive, sandy beaches, and the rugged mountains of the south are sure to delight…. There are lots of off-the-beaten-track destinations to discover, from picturesque mountain villages lost in time to big towns where foreigners are still a rare sight.” Sounds good, no?
Okay, on to the focus of my thoughts today…. And one more warning, people. Total spoiler ahead. I’m completely going to ruin the end of Emma for you, but to be honest, it’s been around for 191 years, so it’s not like I’m about to tell you what happened at the end of a Dan Brown novel or something.
Mr. Knightley is gross.
Okay, read this, and your heart’s going to melt a little around its crusty edges:
“I cannot make speeches, Emma…. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have loved you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma….” (p. 290)
Aw, sweet, right? I mean, quite fitting for a guy who is kind of boring, really. Kind of dry. Stodgy, even.
But read this:
“I do not believe I did you any good. The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doting on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.” (p. 312)
Sure, sure, 19th century sensibilities, yadda yadda.
While reading much of the second half of this classic, I was preparing to make a whole argument about the somewhat despicable formula we love to read or watch in love stories: girl knows boy; boy irritates, mocks, belittles girl; girl realizes she’s not as smart as she thought she was; boy and girl live happily ever after.
Sure, I’ve made the argument before, but I found this passage in a favourite book that suited my points so well:
“The movie When Harry Met Sally did a grave disservice to single people everywhere, by forcing them to look at every friend of the gender towards which they are drawn and wonder: is that who I’m going to end up with? And most of the time, this is not a hopeful, happy question, because if you wanted to end up with that person, you’d already be dating them. Imagine if somebody had told Meg Ryan on that drive from Chicago to New York that she would spend the next twelve years of her life single, punctuated by a handful of relationships that would be both unfulfilling and short lived, and then, finally, just as she is about to give up all hope, who will she be happy to see waiting for her at the end of the aisle? The idiot who just spit grape seeds on her window.” (p. 192, The Big Love by Sarah Dunn)
But now I have to just be vaguely uncomfortable. Yes, Austen tells you from the start that Knightley is about twice Emma’s age. To have his long love spelled out, though, is something else. Even in 1816. And especially when you read how Emma coddles her own befuddled father, a man infantile in his inability to make decisions and immature in his worries. She parents him, so who was parenting her when she was growing up, after her mother died?
Her future husband. Ew.