The Jane Austen Society of America's Central New Jersey chapter meets about six times a year, but the event of the summer season is their annual Box Hill Picnic, held August 13 at the Battle of Monmouth grounds. The picnic, shown above in an illustration and below in stills from the 1997 A&E film, is an important episode in Emma.* "Our version is slightly different. At our picnic meeting, we usually share something from the novel that we enjoy or start a discussion" observes coordinator Meredith Barnes. "It is a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Some chapters have actually gone strawberry picking while others have a more formal tea to celebrate the occasion." Are there any Austenites in the house who would like to share their favorite episode (or film adaptation)?
from "Emma at Box Hill: A Very Questionable Day of Pleasure" by Susan Rogers, in V.25, No. 1 (Winter 2004) of Persuasions Online, published by the Jane Austen Society of North America*“Emma could not resist.” This single sentence marks the most dramatic pause of the novel. In the next line Emma affronts Miss Bates and earns for herself the reprimand that propels Emma’s most earnest effort at self-reflection. Why couldn’t she resist? Had she endured all the good humor and tedium she could manage? Or was the problem with Emma something subtler? What preceded this moment that made her incapable of thinking of Miss Bates’s vulnerability or her own responsibility to an old friend? What precipitates this breakdown in Emma’s usually unfailing sense of decorum? Perhaps the answers begin with the disharmony that mars the day at Box Hill. High expectations for a day of exploring quickly give way to disappointment and tension between the various groups. When Frank Churchill tries to counteract the general “languor” of the party, he leads Emma into a display of careless self-aggrandizement that makes a mockery of marriage and affronts the other members of the party. In the course of two hours we watch Emma chafe under the restrictions of the roles she is assigned, in jest as well as in earnest. We see her play with the idea of her own power and the image of herself as Romantic heroine before falling into error through a growing fear of the future she faces.