Chapter 43: Expedition to Box Hill The party: Mr Weston, Mr and Mrs Elton, Miss Bates, Miss Jane Fairfax, Emma, Harriet Smith, Mr Knightley and Frank Churchill Mrs Weston spends the day at Hartfield with Mr Woodhouse Box Hill: a popular destination for tourists in Surrey, famous for its walks and views. May have used this to symbolise the ‘verbal sparring’ that occurred here and the sense of being boxed in as the same set of company set out on another excursion.
The group breaks into sections. Frank makes Emma his ‘first object’. Emma admits that this could be seen as flirting but she intends Frank to be her friend and nothing more. Emma and Frank are the only two in conversation so Frank asks them all to say what they are thinking at Emma’s command. Mrs Elton is offended that Emma thinks she is the mistress of the party. Emma is rude to Miss Bates as the conversation turns to each person saying one piece of wit or three dull pieces. Mr Knightley reproves Emma’s rudeness to Miss Bates. Emma tries to laugh it off but Mr Knightley tells her that Miss Bates situation calls for Emma’s compassion, a comment which Emma feels deeply as she cries all the way home.
Upper class outings: there is a sense of the excursion being cursed from the beginning because it is always the same people in Highbury who attend such outings. The party is very exclusive; it’s obvious that the party members have been carefully chosen. Emma hopes that she won’t be ‘betrayed into’ another scheme with the same ‘ill-assorted people’
Places in society: Mr Knightley is honest in his account of Miss Bates character and situation. He acknowledges the fact that if Miss Bates was rich they might be able to tolerate her more easily but seeing as she is so unequal to Emma’s situation Emma should feel compassion. Mr Knightley proves himself as an upstanding member of Highbury while highlighting the bad treatment of the poor by the privileged.
Throughout the expedition it seems Frank Churchill’s attention is all for Emma and Emma even thinks that he hints at taking Harriet for a wife. After Frank speaks of badly planned marriages, Jane speaks up. This is a clue we get to there being a relationship between the two of them, explained in a later chapter. Soon Jane Fairfax leaves Harriet, Frank and Emma alone and Emma thinks that Frank’s flirtation begins to get unpleasant. This is the last time Jane is seen out in public before she is ill, again explained by her relationship with Frank Churchill.
There is a sense of ‘dramatic irony’ throughout this chapter. We have hints towards the relationship between these two characters but it is obvious that the other characters have no idea what is happening between them. Emma is completely oblivious to this relationship so her thoughts do not provide any insight. This also helps to make the revelation so surprising when the characters learn of it.
Mr Knightley does not seem to pay close attention to Emma during the expedition. He does not participate in the conversation very much. As they are leaving he makes a point of letting Emma know how unfeeling her rudeness was towards Miss Bates and that, although Emma doesn’t realise, Miss Bates feelings were hurt. After this she has not had a chance to respond and is upset that he didn’t say goodbye to her. She is so upset at his words she cries all the way back to Hartfield. This is the beginning of the growth Emma goes through in the following chapters.
This chapter gives a clear idea of how much respect Emma has for Mr Knightley and his opinion of her. She obviously believes him to be an honest, open man who has seen a fault in her and has made an effort to inform her. This is also a clue to Mr Knightley’s affection for Emma, though the affection seems more friendly in this instance.
“ Mr Frank Churchill and Miss Woodhouse flirted together excessively” This is not said by anyone in particular but Emma has guessed that’s what others interpretations of the situation would have been. In thinking this herself, she obviously understands how over the top Frank’s attention was during the day.
“ Yes, yes, pray pass me . I have nothing to say that can entertain Miss Woodhouse, or any other young lady” – Mr Elton. This quote shows that he is still feeling the rejection from Emma although he has been off and got married. This alludes to the depth of his pride and the hurt his ego felt at being rejected.
Emma is still upset in the evening following the Box Hill expedition and resolves to visit Miss Bates in the morning. She is determined to have ‘a regular, equal and kindly intercourse’ with Miss Bates from now on. She finds Jane ill on her arrival. As soon as Emma asks after Jane Miss Bates seems no longer upset at Emma and quickly informs her that Jane is leaving for a governess position. Jane is to leave in 2 weeks and Emma is upset that she didn’t take the time to be Jane’s friend. Emma discovers Frank has returned to Richmond and wonders why she hasn’t been told. Talk of the pianoforte brings up bad memories for Emma so she takes her leave.
Women in employment: it is made obvious by Miss Bates that she greatly respects the rich and therefore Mrs Elton’s job offer, to her, is a valuable gift. Although she is upset to be losing Jane, she understands how important it is for Jane to accept. She realises that her situation calls for her to be sensible and allow Jane to leave them for this opportunity.
Challenging the rich: in that Emma realises Miss Bates is owed more grace than Emma has allowed her due to her age and her despondent situation, the idea of the rich and poor divide is challenged. Even Emma, who is previously one to enforce the divide, has acknowledged the respect owed to Miss Bates despite her monetary circumstances.
Class/money: this is highlighted by Miss Bates account of John Abdy’s son coming to see Mr Elton for a relief from the parish as he has to look after his bed ridden father. He is headman at the Crown and considered ‘well to do’ but still he can’t afford to keep his father without help.
Miss Bates tells Emma that when Mrs Elton first told Jane she had organised a position for her Jane declined. This was the morning they were at Donwell Abbey. Mrs Elton said she wouldn’t write to Mrs Smallridge straight away and so the evening after Box Hill Jane accepted the offer. Her change of heart is explained later by her relationship with Frank Churchill. It also shows Mrs Elton’s arrogance in that she doesn’t really expect Jane to turn down her offer.
Finally Emma is thinking about the consequences of her actions! She hopes no one could say what Mr Knightley said about her conduct to Miss Bates about how she treats her father. She knows she has been ungracious and remiss [inattentive] in the past. For the first time she truly listened to Miss Bates and her wandering speech about Jane. In the speech Emma [and consequently the audience] learns of Jane’s job offer and even about Frank leaving for Richmond [which is explained in the following chapter] Although she has made amends with Miss Bates she now feels regret for not paying enough attention to Jane. When they speak of the pianoforte is forced to think about the unfair assumptions she previously made regarding it.
“ If attention, in future, could do away the past she might hope to be forgiven” – spoken about Emma regarding her rudeness to Miss Bates. This tells the audience that Emma is truly grieved by her behaviour as she isn't even hoping for or expecting to be forgiven. This is a side to Emma the reader doesn’t see very often. On the other hand this could be read as Emma wanting to be forgiven for her own sake.
“… and then it came out about the chaise being sent to Randalls to take Mr. Frank Churchill to Richmond” – Miss Bates on a conversation with John’s son. Miss Bates automatically assumes Emma would know this and continues with a brief explanation of why he is going. It is strange that this no longer interests Emma directly, it is only in her thoughts that she compares the situations of Mrs Churchill and Jane Fairfax.
As Emma arrives home she sees Mr Knightley and Harriet waiting for her. Mr Knightley announces he is off to see John and Isabella and Emma knows she hasn’t been forgiven yet. Mr Woodhouse praises Emma’s visit to Miss Bates. Mr Knightley notices Emma’s embarrassment at this. He takes her hand but doesn’t kiss it and leaves quicker than usual. This is the first sign of Mr Knightley’s feelings for Emma. The following day the death of Mrs Churchill is announced and Emma sees no more barriers for a relationship between Harriet and Frank. Emma’s strongest regret is her previous coldness to Jane so she makes every effort to make up for it but is rejected at every turn.
It is clear that Mrs Churchill was not widely liked when she was alive but since she is now deceased the people have given her ‘compassionate allowances’. Finally, people believe she wasn’t being selfish and fanciful in saying she was ill. Generally everyone felt the event as they thought they ought to. Mr Weston is highlighted as also feeling a deep sense of sorrow although Frank Churchill was not practically free from the Churchill’s influence.
Emma’s most pressing concern, over and above Mrs Churchill’s death, is showing attention to Jane before she leaves. Emma’s first request for Jane to visit Hartfield was rejected on the basis of Jane’s ill health. After hearing Mr Perry’s report, Emma is even more worried and sends for Jane again but Jane is ‘unequal to any exercise’. Emma goes to Jane but is not allowed to see her, apparently on Jane’s request. She sends arrow-root but it is returned. Emma is very upset when she hears of Jane wandering around meadows far from Highbury on the very same day. Despite this, Emma is convinced she has tried her best with the best intentions.
Social conventions: everyone is polite and ‘forgiving’ towards Mrs Churchill’s faults now that she’s dead.
Friendship: Emma realises that Jane, someone who she admires for her skills and manner, should have been her friend and now regrets that she has been cold to her because now it’s Jane’s turn to disregard Emma.
“ He looked at her with a glow of regard” – On Mr Knightley’s look to Emma after he sees her repentance. This is followed by him intending to kiss her hand but deciding against it and it shows their relationship once again. Emma so seeks his forgiveness that she knows he needs to see her sorriness. The look that he gives her is romantically put as a ‘glow’ and this enhances the idea of an affectionate link between the two.
“… a more pressing concern was to show attention to Jane Fairfax, whose prospects were closing, while Harriet’s opened” – on Emma’s thoughts. Emma is most likely speaking of their prospects within her own world in Highbury. As Jane is to become a governess she is seen as forgoing the chance to become a true lady by taking on a job. It is a refreshing image to think of Emma turning her thoughts to Jane and her situation. It adds to Emma’s regret of not being closer to her while she could. There could also be a message hidden hear in regard to the differences of Mrs Elton’s conduct to Jane and Emma’s to Harriet.