In this essay, I am going to give my views on the title. I am going to do it by considering the presentation of the courtship and/or marriage of two couples. The couples I will use are Harriet Smith and Robert Martin and Emma Woodhouse and Frank Churchill. Although this partnership of Emma is not ‘realised’ in the novel, it is proposed and pushed by Mr and Mrs Weston. I will also look at the text in relation to how my ideas on marriage in their culture are influenced by the text.
I will also be stating my own personal response.
I decided to use Harriet Smith and Robert Martin as one of my couples because I wanted to include in my essay about Emma’s matchmaking efforts with Harriet and it was a marriage that came together at the end of the novel. I decided to use Emma and Frank Churchill as the other couple because I wanted to use one of Frank’s projected marriages and the reactions to his engagement to Jane Fairfax.
My current opinion on the title is that some of the marriages in the text are ‘business mergers’, for example Augusta and Mr Elton, but that the eventual marriages at the end of the novel are mainly for love, even if they do reflect on social status.
A relationship between Frank Churchill and Emma is mooted and strongly pushed by the Westons. When it emerges that Frank has been engaged to Jane throughout the entire novel, Mrs Weston is seemingly distressed at the thought that Emma could have been a part of her family after her having Mrs Weston living in her house with her for so long.
I think that Frank is the wrong man for Emma because even though it would be a good match on social grounds, he is too shallow for Emma’s strong character.
Harriet’s marriage to Mr Martin is a good step for her in two ways. The first is that it increases her social status, as it emerges late in the novel that her father was a tradesman, rather than the nobility, as Emma had suggested. The second reason this marriage is a good step for Harriet is that she is madly in love with Robert Martin. To me this is obvious throughout the novel, from when they meet in the forest and she is telling Emma all about her summer at the Martins house and her little cow to when she rejects his first proposal on Emma’s interference to the visit to his house with Emma to the eventual marriage at the end of the text.
Emma fancied herself as a matchmaker and for most of the novel, Harriet has been someone she is determined to set up with a respectable male. First she decides that Mr Elton is the one for her but that is thrown back in her face when he comes on to her in the carriage. Then she thinks that Harriet has a liking for Frank Churchill, after he saved her from the gypsies when really it is Mr Knightley that Harriet is crazy about because he saved her at the ball.
With such high hopes as these for Harriet, Emma would never have let her marry a poor farmer because, in her eyes, Harriet is too good for him as Emma thinks Harriet is a rich man’s daughter. This is why Emma pushed and pushed for Harriet to refuse his first proposal but was furious when Mr Knightley informed her that he had pushed for Robert Martin to propose.
However, at the end of the novel, Emma has learned of Harriet’s real social status and is on a high from her relationship with Mr Knightley that she doesn’t make any effort to stop the marriage, as now it is a positive marriage for Harriet to increase her social status rather than, as it was before, in Emma’s eyes, a negative match for Harriet to decrease her social status.
I thought that all marriages were for love but I have realised, by reading this novel that some matches may have been made to create financial and social security in the past. I think that marriages should be for love, but, after looking at the culture back then, I can see why some marriages may be made as ‘business mergers’. This is re-iterated by the character of Miss Bates. She couldn’t find a husband so her social status declined rapidly and Emma barely regards her as a part of the nobility as she lives a poor woman’s life, looking after her elderly mother and getting by on the bare minimum. You can see Emma’s views on Miss Bates when she cracks that horrible joke at the Boxhill picnic and Miss Bates quietly dissolves into a puddle of embarrassment.
By writing this essay and reading the novel ‘Emma’, I have realised that life in the early 19th century was a lot harder for some people than others. Those at a great advantage are obviously the landed gentry but, from Miss Bates you see that even for them things don’t always turn out rosy. I am happy that things turn out well for Harriet Smith and that she finally makes her own decision on Robert Martins proposal rather than looking for Emma’s blessing because Harriet could have been happy a lot sooner if Emma hadn’t strongly advised her to turn him down the first time.