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Jules van Schaijik

The moral seriousness of Miss Bates

Jul. 25, 2013, at 1:37pm

I picked up A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz yesterday, and already learned something new. It has to do with the extremely talkative Miss Bates, from Emma.

Miss Bates played by Prunella ScalesMiss Bates has always struck me as pitiable and ridiculous, a character thrown into the novel largely for comic effect. But Deresiewicz has a different angle. He argues that Miss Bates lives "the novel's highest lesson of all": that it is the little things of everyday—the sorts of things talked over repeatedly by Miss Bates—of which real life is made. 

Deresiewicz contrasts the small talk of Miss Bates (and of Austen's novels in general) with the conversations he used to have with his friends, and with the modernist

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