Thursday, April 30, 2020

"For Harriet every thing"

When Jane Austen's Emma first takes on Harriet Smith as a protégée, she contrasts her with her now ex-governess: "Mrs. Weston was the object of a regard which had its basis in gratitude and esteem. Harriet would be loved as one to whom she could be useful. For Mrs. Weston there was nothing to be done; for Harriet every thing." This seems to run counter to moments in the novel where Harriet is "nothing" or even less than nothing, but even here, Emma sees Harriet not as having any self or personality of her own, but as a blank slate for her to work her wonders on as she "improves" her. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 April)

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