Thursday, 27 May 2010

THOUGHTS ON EMMA - THIS MONTH'S HERO, MR KNIGHTLEY. MR PERFECTION?

Mr. Knightley can be considered as the novel’s model of good sense. But, please lets's not go on considering him a fatherly figure. Isn't he more a very  tender passionate lover? The fact that he is much older than Emma has produced this stereotype of him , that of  a father figure to Emma who has always had a weak real one in Mr Woodhouse. Mr Knightley scolds her and rebukes her when she 's wrong, he tries to make her understand her mistakes,  but more as a dear affectionate friend, an older admirer , than a fatherly presence. When he finally declares his love to her he finds even the word "friend" unacceptable: "Emma,that I fear is a word ... - no I have no wish." 


 
Knightley’s love for Emma is the one emotion he cannot govern fully. It leads to his only lapses of judgment and self-control. Before even meeting Frank, Knightley decides that he does not like him. It gradually becomes clear that Knightley feels jealous. When Knightley believes Emma has become too attached to Frank, he acts with uncharacteristic impulsiveness in running away to London. His declaration of love on his return bursts out uncontrollably, unlike most of his prudent, previous well-planned actions. Yet Mr Knightley’s loss of control humanizes him rather than making him seem like a failure.



 

 From his very first conversation with Emma and her father in Chapter 1, his purpose—to correct the excesses and missteps of those around him—is clear. He is unfailingly honest but tempers his honesty with tact and kindheartedness. Almost always, we can depend upon him to provide the correct evaluation of the other characters’ behavior and personal worth. He intuitively understands and kindly makes allowances for Mr. Woodhouse’s whims; he is sympathetic and protective of the women in the community, including Jane, Harriet, and Miss Bates; and, most of all, even though he frequently disapproves of her behavior, he can't stay away from Emma, he never deserts her.



Like Emma, Knightley stands out in comparison to his peers. His brother, Mr. John Knightley lacks his unfailing kindness and tact. Both Frank and Knightley are perceptive, warm-hearted, and dynamic; but whereas Frank uses his intelligence to conceal his real feelings and invent clever compliments to please those around him, Knightley uses his intelligence to discern right moral conduct. Knightley has little use for cleverness for its own sake; he rates propriety and concern for others more highly.


Is Mr Knightley a Mr Perfection meant to mild Emma's imperfection? Is he too perfect to be true? I like him very much for his temper and for his wisdom, for his kindness and his generousity. Impossible to find a Mr Knightley in real life? Well, who cares? We can find one each time we leaf through Jane Austen's Emma.  Isn't this the reason why we love reading so much? Isn't it because  we can find "recovery, escape and consolation"? And, especially, a Mr Knightley, a Mr Darcy, a Captain Wentworth ....

1 comment:

Luciana said...

I love Mr K! I don't think he is sooooo perfect, but he is definitely the most perfect of Austen's heros.