Gossip in Emma

Katrina mentions in her post that Emma’s characters gossip for fun and she is bothered by the lack of realistic consequences for the harm caused by their chatter.In “The Tittle-Tattle of Highbury”, Finch and Bowen emphasize the pervasive nature of gossip, its inescapability; both “Tittle-Tattle” and Gluckman’s article, whom “Tittle-Tattle” quotes, ascribe to gossip vital community-building qualities, how communties  are “held together and maintain [their] values by gossiping both within cliques and in general.”  I found it interesting to contrast these views of gossip’s role in Emma (and in the world at large) with the traditional Jewish take of gossip as a cancerous evil that  can ruin lives and has dramatic repercussions far beyond our realizations, with emphasis placed on communities being torn apart by gossip rather than built on the intimacy that gossip allows the in-group. Perhaps the difference in question is the mutable nature of gossip- malicious speech intending to destroy a reputation or the natural interest and curiosity of small-town members in the lives of their fellows.

Privacy is also brought up in “Tittle-Tattle”. Does this notion exist in Emma? Are there thoughts that even the free indirect narration can’t access? Places within the characters’ lives that are beyond the town’s gossips’ talons? According to Finch and Bowen’s assertion that the a highlight of the free indirect style is that it “guarantees public access to any character’s private thought,” apparently privacy is obsolete. As well, what lies between privacy and secrecy (as discussed during one keyword presentation)… considering that in Emma, “matters are always a secret, till it is found out that every body knows them.”

As a small note, this isn’t my first time reading Emma, and I do not love the book, though Austen is undoubtedly skilled. However, I enjoyed the article on the usage of free indirect style and its attempt at unifying the form and content of Emma. It was easy to imagine Finch and Bowen having in mind Virgil’s flying Gossip being everywhere and still yet nowhere, in all ears with the but sourceless, her genesis story untold; it is almost as if Gossip herself could be that ambiguous narrator standing so close to Emma, right behind her shoulder, so close that she can hear Austen’s protagonist breathing before she delves into her most private thoughts.

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