Thursday, January 28, 2021

The "vacant evening of his own blank solitude": The space for desire in Jane Austen's "Emma"

When Mr. Woodhouse in Jane Austen's "Emma" urges her to "not make any more matches", Emma begs for "only one more" for Mr. Elton: "I must look about for a wife for him. There is nobody in Highbury who deserves him [...]." Mr. Elton, one of the neighbors the Woodhouses can count on, is always ready for "the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse's drawing-room, and the smiles of his lovely daughter." This double emptiness creates a space for Mr. Elton to fill with desire, which makes Emma, for him, the only one "in Highbury who deserves him." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 January 2021)

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