Thursday, April 01, 2021

"I shall be ... you will be": Future modality in the Box Hill scene in Jane Austen's "Emma"

At Box Hill, Frank Churchill in Jane Austen's "Emma" invents a talking game with one rule: say "what you're thinking [...]." But then he changes the rules: first, say "something very entertaining", or better, "one thing very clever [...] – or two things moderately clever – or three things very dull [...]." When Miss Bates then uses "shall", she's commenting on the rules: "I shall be sure to say three dull things as soon as ever I open my mouth [...]." And Emma also speaks of the future: "[...] you will be limited as to number – only three at once." Commenting on the rules allows them both to say "what they're thinking of." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 April 2021)

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