Emma and the Problem of Advice
Guest Post by Rebecca H. Jamison
In Jane Austen’s Emma, Harriet Smith would’ve been much better off if she’d listened to her heart. Instead, she listened to Emma and had to suffer the rejection of two different men before marrying Robert Martin, the man who asked her in the first place. Emma is certainly the worst advice-giver in the book, but she isn’t the only one. Mr. Woodhouse, Mrs. Weston, and Mr. Knightley all offer up plenty of opinions during the progress of the novel.
Mr. Woodhouse turns people off with his constant stream of health advice. He cautions against eating wedding cake and any other sort of tasty food. For the most part, the characters ignore the old man. But, on one occasion, his son-in-law loses patience when Mr. Woodhouse tells the young father not to listen to his own doctor. Mr. Woodhouse may think he’s helping people, but his words sometimes alienate him from those around him.