A Foil

Jane Austen’s Emma was the book I was bent on reading over Christmas vacation in 2015.  I was so intent, that I actually went to an actual bookstore to buy a physical copy.  I find it to be Austen’s wittiest work.

I was getting a kick out of recounting the twists and turns throughout the plot to my mother as she recovered from surgery.

She loved hearing about Frank Churchill’s antics and all the drama he put poor, control freak, Emma through. This charming beauty of a man who could talk his way in and out of anything, who made his way through life politely offending everyone he loved in a way so delightful they almost thanked him for it!

But see, sweet Churchill was nothing but a literary plot device known as a foil… a foil for dearest Mr. Knightly.  Steady, moral, vocal, handsome, loving…but Mr. George Knightly is only seen as literary hero, “Mr. Knightly,” because of Frank Churchill. The contrast, the juxtaposition, makes the difference.

To quote my favorite of Austen’s works, “A girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then.  It’s something to think of.”

And what would being crossed a little in love be without those that cross it?

In life there are moments where you see the Churchills from the Knightlys and life comes into full focus.  Churchills are the ones that fascinate you and catch you up in a whirlwind only to leave you to fall, unaccompanied, when his fancy suits.  But the Knightlys…oh the Knightlys live up to their name.  They swoop in, at the nick of time when it really counts.  They cushion your fall regardless of what it might cost them emotionally or physically. See, the Knightlys…they’ve been there, all the while.  They’ve seen you at your best and worst and stood by you no matter what.  The Knightlys are quiet and yet their presence is a constant comfort. He may be in the corner…but he’s always in YOUR corner.  When you need him, he’s there.

When life gives you those moments of clarity and focus, find the Knightlys in your life. Keep them close and allow them to provide perspective.  Frank Churchill isn’t worth the time it takes to say his name.  But a Knightly? Well, it’s all in the name then, isn’t it?

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