Every so often, I wish I lived in Regency England.
Secluded in a Jane Austen novel, protected by the structures of plot and story–this is the well-ordered world I dream up. Now, I would most certainly want to have Emma’s status over Elinor/Marianne or Elizabeth/Jane. Emma’s world exists for her pleasures, her fleeting desires. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to discuss with the cook a complete dinner menu and never have to dirty a dish? Scrape old food off the cookery? No dish pan hands, just a simple conversation and dinner is completed.
What’s a fantasy world without a butler?
In this perfect world, Emma doesn’t worry about the management of her estate, household. Her proper butler always remembers (of course, I am assuming Emma’s family would have a butler. But if not, it’s my dreamworld, damn it, there’s a butler). Who else would attend to her father’s caprices whilst Emma is picnicing after strawberry picking? I would dearly love sloughing off the time-consuming tasks so I could enjoy more of the pursuits I want. Deep down, I envy Emma’s drawing ability, but I envy the uninterrupted time she has to complete Harriet’s portrait.
That’s the beauty of this well-ordered world, right? To live leisurely sans cares, worries, and troubles.
What I find so disconcerting about Emma is that she could be content with her blissfully pampered life, but she creates troubles for herself. She works so diligently to improve Harriet Smith, but at the end of the book, the two friends hit a rough patch. We can’t forget Mrs. Elton’s treatment of Emma since Emma so vigorously tried to match poor Harriet with Mr. Elton. She argues incessantly with Mr. Knightley about her use of intellect, Harriet’s marriage prospects.
Which makes me wonder if this well-ordered world is simply too dull for Emma to be happy?
She can’t exist without creating some form of conflict. Her world of ease nearly strangles her so she seeks out the imperfect. The Bates benefit from Emma’s uneasiness in her own world. Most of the time, she extends these ladies kindness. I suppose we could debate if Emma takes on Harriet’s friendship as a way of stirring up some excitement, or if Emma is lonely without Mrs. Weston’s presence.
Perhaps, I don’t really want this illusion of a well-ordered world. Maybe, I simply need a bit of conflict, a bit of imperfect.
But I could always use that butler.
What about you? Do you dream of a well-ordered life? Or a butler?
*Photo: Library II by jaaron, obtained through Flickr.