Beauty versus Brains from Emma, Chapter 5:
Here we continue the conversation between Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston concerning Emma and Harriet where Mr. Knightley says:
But Harriet Smith -- I have not half done about Harriet Smith. I think her the very worst sort of companion that Emma could possibly have. She knows nothing herself, and looks upon Emma as knowing every thing. She is a flatterer in all her ways; and so much the worse, because undesigned. Her ignorance is hourly flattery. How can Emma imagine she has any thing to learn herself, while Harriet is presenting such a delightful inferiority? And as for Harriet, I will venture to say that she cannot gain by the acquaintance. Hartfield will only put her out of conceit with all the other places she belongs to. She will grow just refined enough to be uncomfortable with those among whom birth and circumstances have placed her home. I am much mistaken if Emma's doctrines give any strength of mind, or tend at all to make a girl adapt herself rationally to the varieties of her situation in life. They only give a little polish."
"I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than her's. But I am a partial old friend."
This conversation leads us to believe that Miss Austen knew the value of womankind having ‘brains’ as well as ‘beauty’. In other words women should have brains in order to make a contribution to the world and not exist only to be a ‘trophy wife’ or a piece of ‘eye candy’.
This topic brings to mind the words of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice when she declines Mr. Collins proposal:
Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."
Shouldn’t we all be ‘rational creatures’?