Raymond Williams in The Country and the City dismisses Jane Austen's depiction of the land around her as simply "weather or a place for a walk." In Emma's ideology, however, there is a tension between an ostensibly apolitical stance, which is de facto conservative in working to maintain the status quo, and the extent to which a more progressive agenda can be seen through the social mobility of certain principle characters, albeit by "conservative means." For all the leisure, picnics, and parties that constitute the greater part of Emma, labor is evident and valued. The country may be largely "weather and a place for a walk," but in the spirit of the Romanticism of Jane Austen's time, appreciation of and physical and psychological connectedness with the land becomes a virtue, one more component of the moral character.
“Emma and the Countryside: Weather and a Place for a Walk.” Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, vol. 21, 1999, pp. 44-52. http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions/no21/toohey/