Emma and Miss. Smith call in at the Bates’ house, despite their low status in society, the Bates’ are well thought of by the people of Highbury for their kindness and their endless hospitality, Emma is told by John Knightley that he should be more patient towards the Bates’, and that she should give them more time. Emma originally uses the Bates’ house as a distraction from herself and Miss. Smith’s conversations over Mr. Elton; in Emma’s ‘kindness’ she wants to save Miss. Bates’ feelings by diverting her attention from Mr. Elton, so she takes her to see the Bates’. Miss. Smith plays no role in this chapter, other than to get the two into the Bates’ house, it is imperative to the story that this happens, for this is where Emma picks up on stories, Miss. Smith sits in the corner of the house and does not say, or do anything, even while Emma is fussing around Mrs. Bates, she is not referred to at all after entering the house. Emma’s imagination and her animating suspicions are revealed in the Bates’ house, the information that is conveyed from the letter is processed by Emma and completely misinterpreted As the reader, entering Emma’s train of thoughts through the author, we can see the thought processes which happen, and, the result is completely ridiculous, Emma is simply searching for ‘dirt’ and ‘gossip’ on Miss. Fairfax to relay to her friends in Highbury. One of her scandalous thoughts includes, a possible relationship between Miss. Fairfax, and ‘…the charming Mr. Dixon’. Which is preposterous.
In this chapter, Emma is seen in a much more unpleasant light than usual, Emma duplicitous nature is revealed, she uses the Bates’ to avoid conversing further about Mr. Elton. Social niceties forced among the population are also revealed, Emma seems to be delighted to visit the Bates’, she makes polite conversation and seems genuinely interested, Emma does not let anyone know her feelings at this point, she does not let them know how bored she is. She seems gracious also sympathetic towards Miss. Fairfax and her illness. But as the reader, we are enlightened by the author delving into Emma’s mind and revealing her thought processes, Emma despises Miss. Bates’ relentless talking, the fact that her conversations-with herself-lead no-where. Her thought when entering the Bates’ house was that another letter from Miss. Fairfax was not expected for another few days, and that the hype from the most recent letter was over, but after entering and doing her civic duties, by making Mrs. Bates comfortable, she innocently asks about Miss. Fairfax, thinking that nothing will come of it, but Miss. Bates informs Emma that they had received a letter that very day, containing interesting information. Although, up to now, Emma was uninterested at anything that came from Miss. Bates’ mouth, she was suddenly enlightened at the chance to formulate hearsay. Emma, apart from being portrayed as selfish and snobbish in this chapter, she is also made out to be a schemer, primarily she schemes her, and Miss. Smith’s way out of talking about Mr. Elton by ‘paying a visit’ to the Bates’ house, she asks Miss. Bates leading questions, which poor Miss. Bates is inclined to do, Emma schemes her way into knowing even the most minute details about Miss. Fairfax, which she will no doubt use in her next conversation with another of her high ranking friends. Leaving without having the courtesy to listen to Miss. Fairfax’s letter shows another of Emma’s odious ‘talents, she is selfish, asking about the letter to gather information about Miss. Fairfax, and not having the civility to listen to what she asked about.
Miss Bates is very important to the continuation of the story in this chapter, she provides the link with Miss. Fairfax, which enables the readers, and indeed Emma, to collect and interpret information about Miss. Fairfax and her personality. Miss Bates is herself, painfully normal and very honest, not at all in a bad way, but she says what she will and not any other way. Another of the qualities that keeps the Bates’ in with the society that they are in, is that they are nice to everyone, (although Mrs. Bates is slightly deaf in one ear, and does not speak throughout the novel), they have no harsh comments or thoughts about anyone, they can only see the goodness in all that surround them. But there is an alternative side to Miss. Bates, a side that Emma herself sees, and we the readers see, Miss. Bates is intolerably tedious, she talks for long periods of time with no direction and no structure, when Emma enquires about the letter that Miss. Fairfax has sent, Miss. Bates spends a lot of time telling how she lost her letter and how she came by her letter. ‘; but I had put my huswife upon it’, telling pointlessly how she had lost, and found the letter from her dear Miss. Fairfax. The character of Miss. Bates is well suited for her social status, her tedious personality and tenacious manners suit her well being as low in the social scale as she is, for this, it is acceptable for the reader, and indeed the people surrounding her to feel sympathy for her as she is so poor, but yet so nice. If Miss. Bates were to be rich, her mannerisms would be outlandish, the reader’s pity for her situation makes the reader unable to laugh at her faults and mannerisms, but if she was rich and high in society, she would be a very comical character. It would be easy to mock her in high society, as Emma does about Mr. Elton and his mannerisms.
An indication into how small and secluded the Bates’ lives are is the fascination over each letter that is received from Miss. Fairfax, vast commotion is made from every letter, and each letter is examined carefully by Miss. Bates to extract as much information as possible about the health and activities about her niece. Miss. Bates is grateful for everything that she has, never does she moan about things she does not have, or things she would like, except to see Miss. Fairfax, this is shown when Mrs and Miss. Bates are invited to a party at Highbury, Miss. Bates spends a lot of her time in admiration for the people and spectacles surrounding her. Mrs and Miss. Bates make a good team in bringing light heartedness and lets the reader know that Hartfield is not filled with over indulgent, self-loving and social conscious people, they bring the readers in to Hartfield, the reader may think that he, or she, are not in any way in Emma’s social class, but that they may enter with the Bates’ because they can relate and not feel persecuted. Emma’s very selfishly un-sympathetic judgment of Miss. Bates is evident also when she and Miss. Smith make their visit. Emma does not sympathise for Miss. Bates, in the fact that, her mother was married, but now widowed, Miss. Bates will never marry, she will remain her mothers carer for the rest of her life, and when she dies, she will have nothing, only her little house and her friends, Emma does not sympathise with Miss. Bates because she finds her impossible and unrelenting. It is not surprising to see that Emma does not sympathise with Miss. Bates being an unsupported spinster, if Emma only originally befriends Miss. Smith- because she doesn’t want to be alone, and her dislike for Miss. Fairfax because she is a rival, even though Miss. Fairfax is an orphan and has no ‘real’ family apart from the Bates’ to fall back on- it is not surprising to the reader that Emma will not sympathise with Miss. Bates because of her very unfortunate position.
Frank Churchill is portrayed to be a very selfish character in this chapter, although he is not referred to predominantly, his engagement to Miss. Fairfax is revealed to be a selfish act. He orders Miss. Fairfax to keep the engagement secret, this could be so that he may woo Emma and play some of the ladies in the novel, this act must be tearing Miss. Bates up inside, Frank Churchill moving from lady to lady, wooing them as he goes. It is no wonder that no person might see the distress in Miss. Bates.
The most significant event in this chapter is Emma’s visit to the Bates’, and her comical misinterpretation of events that the letter displays. Emma exits the house, rudely before Miss. Bates can read her the letter, and goes out into the countryside of Hartfield with fresh gossip to relay to the population of the small town.
Another very interesting addition to the story concerning the knowledge of Miss. Fairfax’s and Frank Churchill’s engagement, could be when Miss. Fairfax is set up, and is living with her new husband in comfort, the impact that this may have on Emma.