by Jane Austen
Table of Contents
1. Emma: Introduction
2. Emma: Summary
3. Emma: List of Characters
4. Emma: Historical Background
Table of Contents
1. Emma: Introduction
2. Emma: Summary
3. Emma: List of Characters
4. Emma: Historical Background
Emma: Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 6-8 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 9-11 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 12-15 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 16-18 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 19-21 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 22-24 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 25-26 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 27-29 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 30-31 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 32-33 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 34-36 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 40-42 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 46-47 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 48-49 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 50-52 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapters 53-55 Summary and Analysis
¨ Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 3-5 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 6-8 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 9-11 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 12-15 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 16-18 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 19-21 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 22-24 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 25-26 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 27-29 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 30-31 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 32-33 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 34-36 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 37-39 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 40-42 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 43-45 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 46-47 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 48-49 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 50-52 Questions and Answers
¨ Chapters 53-55 Questions and Answers
7. Emma: Suggested Essay Topics
8. Emma: Sample Essay Outlines
9. Emma: Bibliography and Further Reading
10. Emma: Pictures
The Life and Work of Jane Austen
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England in 1775, the seventh child of Reverend and Mrs. George Austen.
The rustic midland counties of England in which she grew up provided the setting for her novels. She began
writing at the age of twelve but had to wait over twenty years to find a publisher. She was thirty-five when
Sense and Sensibility appeared in 1811. After that, she published Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park
(1814), and Emma (1816). Two more novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published
posthumously in 1818.
Written in fifteen months, Emma marked the pinnacle of Jane Austen’s energy and craftsmanship. Though it
earned her a great deal of attention, she chose to remain at her desk rather than take her place among a literary
society that praised her work. She remained a sensible spinster bound to her country cottage, even though the
Prince Regent (later to be crowned King George IV) was an open admirer and requested that she dedicate this
book to him, which she did in short, unflattering prose. It seems that though she was a favorite of his, keeping
a set of her novels in each of his houses, she detested him.
An edition of 2,000 copies of Emma was published in 1816 and enjoyed immediate success among
sophisticated readers and those who could afford its relatively high cost. The second printing was to come
sixteen years later, then reprinted a number of times during the nineteenth century. Though well received by
critics of the day, Emma, like most of Jane Austen’s novels, was considered too subtle and lacking sensation
to be widely popular.
On July 18, 1817, Jane Austen died of the yet undiagnosed Addison’s disease and was buried in Winchester
Cathedral. Her novels have grown in popularity ever since. A fragmentary work called Sandition was
eNotes: Table of Contents 2
published in 1925, and a juvenile work, Love and Friendship, in 1922.
Emma begins at Hartfield estate on the day Emma Wood¬house’s former governess, Miss Taylor, marries
Mr. Weston. Emma claims she arranged the match and plans to continue her matchmaking because it amuses
her. She befriends Harriet Smith in order to match her with Mr. Elton, though her father and Mr. Knightley
advise against it.
To Emma’s dismay, Harriet is on the brink of a love affair with Robert Martin—an affair Emma plans to
curtail by forcing Harriet and Elton together at various social functions. Her plan backfires when Mr. Elton,
alone in a carriage with Emma, grabs her hand and attempts to make violent love to her.
Mr. Knightley chides Emma for her meddling and pronounces Mr. Martin perfectly suited for Harriet. Even as
Emma resists his argument and plots the next step to get Harriet together with Mr. Elton, a note arrives that he
has gone to Bath for a visit. Mrs. Bates introduces Emma to Jane Fairfax, whom Emma finds an accomplished
young woman, but feels jealous because that is how she wants to be thought of. Her schemes are further
derailed when she hears that Mr. Elton is to be married to Miss Hawkins of Bath. Though the news pains her,
Emma resolves to take an even closer interest in Harriet, whom she sees as the rejected victim.
At this time, Frank Churchill arrives to visit his new stepmother, Mrs. Weston, and he and Emma strike up a
friendship based on gossip and mutual praise for the village of Highbury and its worthy inhabitants. When
Frank is called away to attend the ailing Mrs. Churchill, Emma is convinced he is in love with her. Upon
Frank’s return a ball is held and as Emma admires the non-dancer, Mr. Knightley, for his gentlemanly
bearing. He surprises everyone by dancing with Harriet. He then berates Emma for the Harriet/Elton
mismatch but dances with her anyway. A secret admiration is hinted at between Frank and Jane, but Emma
dismisses it. She begins to groom Harriet for Frank’s affections.
A letter arrives announcing the death of Mrs. Churchill, and Emma thinks the removal of this impediment will
speed the union of Frank and Harriet. Mrs. Weston then announces that Frank and Jane Fairfax are secretly
engaged. Emma thinks this is deceitful treachery. Emma expects Harriet to be destroyed by this news but
hears instead that Harriet is in love with Mr. Knightley. Emma profoundly regrets manipulating Harriet
because she wants Mr. Knightley for herself.
Saddened at having lost Mr. Elton for Harriet, Frank for Harriet, any friendship she might have had with Jane,
and now Harriet to Mr. Knightley, Emma is revived to hear Mr. Knightley’s declaration of love. Only two
obstacles stand in the way of their happiness—Mr. Woodhouse and Harriet.
Her father allows the match so long as the future couple agree to live at Hartfield. Emma then hears news that
Harriet, who at Emma’s urging had gone to her sister’s in London, met with Robert Martin there and is to be
married as well.
Estimated Reading Time
This novel was written in the nineteenth century when descriptive prose and dialogue were more flowery and
subtle than they are today. You may find yourself re-reading pages from time to time to catch what’s
happening. Allow yourself time for this. Take two or three chapters at once. Estimated reading time: 25 to 30
Emma: Introduction 3
Emma: List of Characters
Emma Woodhouse—Protagonist of the novel; youngest daughter of Mr. Woodhouse and his deceased wife;
sister of Isabella (Woodhouse) Knightley; mistress of Hartfield estate.
Mr. Woodhouse—Emma’s father; elderly, sedentary master of Hartfield.
Mrs. Weston (Miss Taylor)—Emma’s former governess, now friend; wife of Mr. Weston; mistress of
Randalls country house.
Mr. Weston—(Captain Weston)—Retired militia; husband of Mrs. Weston; biological father of Frank
Churchill; master of Randalls.
Mr. Knightley (George)—Gentleman farmer and magistrate; master of Donwell Abbey; neighbor and friend of
Emma and Mr. Woodhouse.
Mr. Elton—Vicar of Highbury; young bachelor.
Harriet Smith—Illegitimate daughter of unknown persons; placed in Mrs. Goddard’s Boarding School in
Highbury; befriended by Emma.
Mrs. and Miss Bates—Widow of former Vicar of Highbury and her spinster daughter; social friends of the
Woodhouses; aunt and cousin of Jane Fairfax.
Jane Fairfax—Orphaned niece of Mrs. Bates; taken in by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell who undertook her
education; secret fiancée of Frank Churchill.
Mr. and Mrs. Churchill—Aunt and uncle of Frank Weston Churchill whom they adopt; brother and
sister-in-law to Miss Churchill, deceased first wife of Mr. Weston.
Frank (Weston) Churchill—Son of Mr. Weston and the deceased Miss Churchill; adopted by Mr. and Mrs.
Churchill; brought up in fashionable London society; secret fiancé of Jane Fairfax.
Augusta (Hawkins) Elton—Social climbing wife of Mr. Elton; daughter of tradesman, eager to break into
society at Highbury.
John and Isabella (Woodhouse) Knightley—Lawyer brother-in-law and sister of Emma Woodhouse; residing
in Brunswick Square in London.
Robert Martin—Tenant of Abbey Mill farm, rented from Mr. (George) Knightley; fond of Harriet Smith.
Elizabeth Martin—Sister of Robert; resident of Abbey Mill; schoolfriend of Harriet.
Mr. and Mrs. Coles—Tradespeople of the village of Highbury, rising in fortune and rank to the upper middle
Mrs. Goddard—Mistress of a boarding school.
Mr. and Mrs. Cox—Lawyer family.
Emma: List of Characters 4
Emma: Historical Background
In 1801, the first official census was taken in Great Britain. By 1851, the population had doubled due to the
decline in infectious diseases, an improved diet made possible by new techniques in farming—especially in
cultivating the potato, earlier marriages and larger families.
Though inventions such as James Watts’s steam engine in 1780 fueled the Industrial Revolution and made
Britain “the workshop of the world,” the English countryside remained rustic, its inhabitants close-knit and
suspicious of anyone outside their village. Cityfolk were watched with a wary eye for their customs were
practically foreign to country dwellers.
By 1811, King George III of England, having lost the American colonies, became mentally incapable of
discharging his duties. His eldest son was named Prince Regent and succeeded him to the throne in 1820 as
George IV. Although a patron of the arts and architecture, the Prince Regent became unpopular as a result of
his gluttony and drunkenness. He attempted to divorce his popular wife and became the target of scandal.
The period, known as Regency (1800-1830), is distinctive for its art and architecture, which followed
neo-classical (Greek) lines. Painters chose to break with traditional perspective and emulated the flat,
silhouetted figures of Greek vase painting, such as John Flaxman’s simple line engravings for editions of
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
As with all Jane Austen’s novels, Emma is rooted far more in the customs and cultures of the nineteenth
century than in its history. Scarcely a mention is made of the Abolitionist movement in England, though at the
time the novel takes place, there was much agitation against the African slave trade-so much so that in 1833,
Parliament abolished slavery as a result of pressure from the Abolitionists who began their movement in the
The social context of Emma and the other Jane Austen novels features a rigid class structure with personages
of royal blood eminently on top, followed closely by others of noble title. Officers of the militia and landed
gentry—landowners—who employed servants, rented part of their property to farmers, owned horses and
carriages, generally made up the second rung on this social ladder. They were joined by persons of esteemed
professions, such as clergymen and doctors. Tradespeople came next. These included merchants (soon to
make up the burgeoning middle class of the twentieth century), farmers who cultivated their own land (known
as yeomen), governesses and teachers. At the bottom of the ladder, there were tenant farmers, servants, and
the poor and unfortunate. Emma Woodhouse is landed gentry.
Emma: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Emma Woodhouse: the protagonist of the novel
Mr. Woodhouse: Emma’s father
Mr. Knightley: neighbor and welcome visitor
Emma: Historical Background 5
Emma Woodhouse and her father dine at their estate of Hartfield without Emma’s former governess, Miss
Taylor, whom this very day married Mr. Weston and moved half a mile down the road. Mr. Knightley pays a
call. While Mr. Woodhouse grieves over the marriage that he views as an unfortunate change, Emma points
out its positive benefits and claims to have arranged it. Mr. Knightley doubts her claim, suggesting the two
parties were drawn to each other naturally. Emma remains convinced of her match-making and tells them she
is going to do the same for Mr. Elton.
This chapter introduces life on a country estate. Though Emma was schooled by a governess, we see that she
was also spoiled and indulged by her, as well as her father. Mr. Knightley brings a fresh attitude toward her
because he points out her faults.
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Weston: husband of Emma’s former governess
Mrs. Weston: Emma’s former governess
Mr. and Mrs. Churchill: brother and wife of Mr. Weston’s first wife
Frank Churchill: son of Mr. Weston
Mr. Perry: local apothecary, also serving as Mr. Woodhouse’s doctor
We are given the backgrounds of five new characters. Mr. Weston, formerly Captain Weston of the militia,
first married into the prominent Churchill family and was scorned by his wife’s brother and the controlling
Mrs. Churchill, who thought him beneath their social class and disinherited their sister. The Westons had a
son, Frank, and he was brought up by the Churchills after Mrs. Weston died and given their name. Though he
had never set foot in Highbury, the townspeople regard him as a celebrity. Currently, the Woodhouses are
dealing with the fact that their beloved Miss Taylor is married and gone. Emma cherishes her with fond
memories. Mr. Woodhouse remains convinced the marriage is a pity. He had even tried to prevent the guests
from eating the wedding cake, warning that rich food is unhealthy.
From events in the backgrounds of significant characters, the importance of class distinction becomes clear.
Though Mr. Weston is a good-natured, loyal man who served his country well enough to rise to the rank of
captain, he was outclassed by the Churchills. Being from a great Yorkshire family gave them the privilege of
influencing lives, which they did by disinheriting their sister and adopting their nephew and raising him
however they saw fit. Being from the most prominent family in Highbury gives Emma and Mr. Woodhouse
broad powers of influence. It is, therefore, especially painful to Mr. Woodhouse that he could not influence
Miss Taylor to stay with them at Hartfield instead of marrying Mr. Weston and moving half a mile away. But
then, he couldn’t influence the wedding guests to refrain from eating the cake either. Mr. Woodhouse is
revealed as a caricature who mocks the actions and emotions of the main characters.
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis 6
Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Elton: vicar of Highbury and a bachelor
Mrs. and Miss Bates: widow and daughter of the former vicar
Mrs. Goddard: headmistress of a boarding school
Harriet Smith: student of Mrs. Goddard
Mr. Robert Martin: tenant farmer of Abbey Mill
The Woodhouse’s inner circle of friends includes the Westons, Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Elton. The outer
circle includes Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard. Miss Bates is a spinster occupied with the care of her
elderly mother. Mrs. Goddard is a motherly woman who, like the others, would gladly leave the comfort of
her home to spend an evening at the Woodhouse’s gossiping, playing cards, and eating supper.
A letter arrives from Mrs. Goddard asking Emma if she could bring a student, Harriet Smith, with her this
evening. Emma is pleased to include her because Harriet, though beneath her socially, is blessed with beauty
and manners and has always acted grateful to be admitted to Hartfield. Upon her visit, Emma begins hatching
a scheme to influence Harriet and advance her socially. Emma displays her best manners toward her during
the meal. Mr. Woodhouse is torn between his love of hospitality and his belief that supper is unhealthy.
Harriet goes away delighted with having been treated so warmly by Emma.
Emma loses no time encouraging Harriet to be her close companion. Certain that she can be of use to Harriet,
she encourages her to talk about her recent visit to Abbey Mill, the farm home of a girlfriend from school.
Upon hearing details of the visit, Emma is dismayed to learn that Mr. Martin, the girlfriend’s brother, is a
bachelor and fond of Harriet. He even traveled three miles to bring her walnuts because she likes them.
Emma advises Harriet against getting drawn into the Martin family because she doesn’t want any
entanglements to stand in the way of her getting established into good society. The next day, they run into Mr.
Martin on the road. Though Emma allows that he behaved with respect and looked like a sensible man, she
tells Harriet that he is plain and lacks gentility. She compares him to Mr. Elton, whom she holds up as a
model gentleman. Emma reflects that though Mr. Elton doesn’t suit her taste, he would be the perfect match
for Harriet. Emma thinks if she was impressed by Mr. Martin’s riding around to get her walnuts, she will be
awed by Mr. Elton’s slightest attention.
Mr. Knightley pays a call on Mrs. Weston and begins quarreling with her about Emma. He is certain her
friendship with Harriet is a bad thing. Mrs. Weston protests. She feels that wanting to improve Harriet will
make Emma improve herself. Mr. Knightley points out that nobody has ever made Emma do anything she
didn’t want and calls her spoiled. Mrs. Weston defends Emma’s character, assuring him that since she left
their household, Emma has obeyed her every wish. Knightley remains convinced that Harriet’s unabashed
hero worship of Emma will not encourage her to change and that once Harriet is used to the comfort of
Hartfield, she will be uncomfortable with her own class.
Mrs. Weston tries to steer Mr. Knightley’s attention to Emma’s physical beauty, which he admits she
possesses without vanity, though she is vain in other ways. He declares that it would do Emma good to be in
love with someone who did not return her love.
Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis 7
The social life of the Woodhouses is more fully drawn when their friends are introduced. In reaching outside
her social circle to befriend Harriet, Emma reveals the irony of her character. Emma encourages Harriet to
talk, but is clearly dissatisfied with the level of her conversation. She promotes a match between Harriet and
Mr. Elton, even though Harriet is clearly on the verge of a love affair with Mr. Martin.
Though Emma has the clout and cleverness to take on any project, she squanders her resources on a simple,
subordinate girl who is naive to her schemes. Harriet is an amusing project to Emma, and only Mr. Knightley
sees the inherent danger in the friendship. Her former governess has been blinded by her beauty and
cleverness for so long, she cannot see any fault in her.
Chapters 6-8 Summary and Analysis
Emma encourages Harriet’s admiration of Mr. Elton. When he compliments Emma on Harriet’s improved
manners, Emma points to Harriet’s natural charms, claiming that she had only to draw them out. She
proposes Harriet sit for a portrait that she will paint and shows her portfolio, which Mr. Elton and Harriet
view with unreserved praise.
While Harriet poses for her portrait, Mr. Elton hovers over Emma admiring every stroke. It is decided that in
order to have it framed, Mr. Elton will take it to London—a commission he accepts with gusto. He is so
pleased to be doing this chore that Emma questions his eagerness. Is it for Harriet or her?
The next day, Harriet tells Emma that Mr. Martin has sent her a proposal of marriage in a letter. Emma is
impressed by its form and content, but puts it down firmly. Confused, Harriet asks her friend what to do.
Emma tells her that if she has any doubts, she ought to refuse. Certain that Emma would disapprove of a
match with Mr. Martin, Harriet reluctantly concedes.
Though Emma says she cannot advise Harriet on how to write a letter of refusal, she dictates nearly every
sentence. Once the letter is sent, Harriet feels so low that Emma attempts to boost her spirits by suggesting
that Mr. Elton is no doubt showing her portrait all around London.
Mr. Knightley pays a call during Harriet’s absence to announce that Mr. Martin has confided that he will
propose to Harriet. When Emma tells him that she has already been asked and refused, Knightley accuses
Emma of putting her up to it. An argument ensues wherein Emma declares Harriet superior to Mr. Martin, and
Mr. Knightley is just as adamant that Martin is superior to Harriet and is the ideal husband.
He further accuses Emma of setting Harriet against her class by raising her expectations too high. Emma vows
that it was Harriet’s choice to turn Mr. Martin down and asserts that she is through with matchmaking.
Harriet returns later to tell Emma that Mr. Elton was spotted on his way to London, delighted with his
important mission. The friend who spotted him suspected the mission had something to do with a young lady.
Emma persists in orchestrating the sham romance between Harriet and Mr. Elton. She is so smugly confident
of her improvements on Harriet that she fails to detect that Mr. Elton’s effusive compliments are aimed at her
and that Harriet is only acting to please her friend.
She pushes her influence further when Harriet receives a marriage proposal from a man Emma considers a
lowlife bumpkin. She forces Harriet to choose between her and Mr. Martin. But she has no such influence
over Mr. Knightley. When he accuses her of disastrous meddling, she fires back all her justifications. Though
Chapters 6-8 Summary and Analysis 8
she argues her case spiritedly, Mr. Knightley holds the moral high ground.
Chapters 9-11 Summary and Analysis
Isabella Knightley: Emma’s sister
John Knightley: Emma’s brother-in-law
Emma begins composing riddles while Harriet writes them down. Mr. Elton is asked to come up with one.
When he does, it is credited to a “friend” and written to Emma, but she interprets it as being meant for
Harriet and congratulates her on her new alliance. Harriet cannot believe a man as popular and well-placed as
Mr. Elton wants to marry her, but she takes Emma’s word for it.
Mr. Woodhouse comes in and prattles on about the impending visit from his daughter Isabella and her family
just before Mr. Elton pays a call. Before he leaves, Emma picks up the riddle intended for her eyes only and
gives it back to him, saying that she had copied it into Harriet’s book because it is too good not to share. Mr.
Elton reads it and declares with some hesitation that this is the proudest moment of his life.
Paying a charity call on a poor family, Emma and Harriet run into Mr. Elton the next day. Emma tries to leave
them alone to chat, but can’t resist listening in. She is sure Mr. Elton must be making a love declaration to
Harriet, but hears only the menu from yesterday’s dinner party. Again she tries to give them time to
themselves, but overhears nothing that sounds intimate. She concludes Elton is being cautious.
Emma decides that she will leave Harriet and Mr. Elton to work out their romance by themselves and turns
her attentions to her sister’s visit. The families are reunited and make small talk about one another, the
Westons and the Churchills. John Knightley inquires if Frank Churchill visited his new stepmother yet. Emma
says he is expected soon. Mrs. Knightley cannot comprehend how Frank’s natural father could give him over
to the care of the Churchills. Her husband contrasts her love for her child with that of Mr. Weston for his. He
characterizes Mr. Weston as a man who takes more pleasure in noisy society than in domestic solitude.
Ignoring Mr. Knightley’s warnings, Emma cannot leave Harriet and Mr. Elton alone. She manipulates them
both into empty conversations that she interprets as courtship. She teases Harriet about how soon she will
become Mr. Elton’s wife, and she torments Mr. Elton because he doesn’t profess his love when and how she
In frustration, she washes her hands of them and turns her attention to her sister and her family. She finds John
Knightley’s opinions far less easy to sway than Harriet’s and holds her tongue when he criticizes Mr.
Weston for being a social maven.
Chapters 12-15 Summary and Analysis
When Mr. Knightley comes to dine with the family, Emma decides it is time to make up with him. She
declares they were both right, and they pass a tolerable evening together. Mr. Woodhouse complains of how
he will miss Isabella and of London not being a healthy place for her or anyone.
Chapters 9-11 Summary and Analysis 9
While Mr. Knightley discusses putting in a new path on his farm with his brother, Mr. Woodhouse chides
Isabella for taking the children to the wrong part of the seaside. He tells her she should have consulted Mr.
Perry, his doctor, because he knows the right part of the seaside where the air is healthier. John Knightley
shouts his displeasure with Mr. Perry’s ideas, and the only thing that can console Mr. Woodhouse is his
daughters’ soothing words.
There is to be a Christmas Eve supper at Randalls with Harriet and Mr. Elton invited to join the Knightleys
and the Woodhouses. When Harriet comes down with a cold, Emma goes to look in on her and runs into Mr.
Elton. She assumes he is coming to inquire about Harriet’s health, but he seems more interested in Emma’s.
She persuades him to stay home to take care of his own health, which he reluctantly agrees to. When her
brother-in-law rides up in his carriage and offers Mr. Elton a ride to the party, he accepts and hurries off.
Riding home, John Knightley tells Emma he suspects Mr. Elton is in love with her. She stridently denies it.
When they pick up Mr. Elton that evening, he seems to have forgotten all about Harriet’s illness. The party
drives to Randalls amidst Mr. Elton’s talking animatedly to Emma while John Knightley complains about the
weather, the Westons’ company, and the inconvenience of leaving Hartfield.
During supper, Mr. Elton seats himself next to Emma and solicits her attention throughout the meal. When the
party moves to the drawing room, the subject of Frank Churchill is brought up by Mr. Weston who thinks he
will come to visit soon. Mrs. Weston thinks he will not because his stepmother won’t permit it. Emma cannot
understand how a young man could be controlled by his family. The tea conversation becomes unbearable for
Emma when Mr. Elton seats himself between her and Isabella and praises her selfless behavior. John
Knightley announces snow, though it turns out to be only a few flakes, and Mr. Woodhouse urges everyone
Emma finds herself alone in a carriage with Mr. Elton who takes the opportunity to profess his love for
Emma. She is shocked and offended, certain that he must be in love with Harriet. He is just as certain his
affection has been clearly directed toward Emma and that Harriet means nothing to him. He departs in stunned
Emma is lying to herself about Harriet and Mr. Elton, and she is paying a price for it. She has angered her
friend Mr. Knightley, turned Harriet into her puppet and forced Mr. Elton into physical aggression to plead his
case. Emma attempts to cover the truth with smiles and good manners, but her deceit is making her cross and
robbing her of the true affections of her friends and family.
There is comic relief in the ongoing suspicion Mr. Woodhouse has toward the outside world. Nothing in
London or beyond holds anything for him. No ideas matter except those of his immediate circle. Though the
rank of gentleman affords him the opportunity to broaden himself, he never ventures far beyond his own
Chapters 16-18 Summary and Analysis
Emma is miserable and confused. She cannot comprehend how she could have misread Mr. Elton so
completely. Failing to make sense of it, she accuses Mr. Elton of seeking her affections to better establish his
own position in the world. She goes to bed convinced she blundered everything.
When she wakes up Christmas morning, she is relieved to see the ground covered with snow. Confinement at
home means that she won’t have to go out and face anyone, make excuses for Mr. Elton’s absence, or
Chapters 12-15 Summary and Analysis 10
explain anything to Harriet.
On the day that John Knightley returns to London, a letter arrives from Mr. Elton announcing that he is off to
Bath for a three-week visit. Emma turns her attention to Harriet and tells her that she misjudged Mr. Elton
completely. Harriet responds by weeping, but doesn’t blame anyone since she is certain she didn’t deserve
Mr. Elton in the first place.
Emma is touched by her grief and vows to drive Mr. Elton from her thoughts. She wants Harriet to be
composed when she next sees him. She takes her to Hartfield in an attempt to soothe her. A letter arrives
telling Mrs. Weston that Frank Churchill’s impending visit will have to be postponed. He implies his
presence is needed at home. Mrs. Weston feels saddened at this excuse. Emma tells Mr. Knightley that she
thinks the Churchills are keeping him home, and Mr. Knightley explodes into anger.
An argument ensues. Emma calls Frank Churchill an amiable young man who must manage his family with
finesse in order to be allowed a visit. Mr. Knightley calls him a weakling who is shirking his duty. Emma
reflects that Mr. Knightley must dislike Frank merely because he has a different disposition.
Emma is far more gifted at manipulating her own thoughts than the actions of others. She has so wounded Mr.
Elton’s pride that he has left town, but she tells herself his absence will work to her advantage. She now has
time to mend Harriet and plot new strategies.
The subject of Frank Churchill provides Mr. Knightley and Emma with a new source of conflict. Emma sticks
to her belief that this young man is the pride of Highbury. She envisions his arrival as a social sensation. Mr.
Knightley argues back that he is an idle playboy who will someday show up to flatter and fool them all. His
words have a prophetic ring.
Chapters 19-21 Summary and Analysis
Jane Fairfax: niece of Mrs. Bates; cousin of Miss Bates
In an attempt to divert Harriet’s attention away from Mr. Elton, Emma calls on Mrs. and Miss Bates. They
have just received a letter from their niece, Jane Fairfax. Emma attempts to coax Miss Bates into talking about
the letter so she won’t have to actually hear it read. She learns that Jane Fairfax is coming to the house for a
visit instead of going to Ireland with her adoptive parents.
Emma is curious about why Jane should come to Highbury instead of Ireland, but Miss Bates offers only
bland assurance that Jane wants to visit. By the time Miss Bates gets around to actually reading the letter,
Emma escapes out the door.
Jane Fairfax’s background is given. She was orphaned at a young age and adopted by Colonel and Mrs.
Campbell, who had a natural daughter about Jane’s age who would later marry Mr. Dixon. The Campbells
determined that Jane would be brought up to be a governess and to that end she was well-educated and cared
Emma doesn’t like Jane Fairfax and resents having to be nice to her for three months. But once she sees her,
she feels guilty for disliking her. She resolves to be charitable toward her since she had an unfortunate past
and little future. She forgives her for seducing her brother-in-law, Mr. Dixon. But before the evening is over,
Chapters 16-18 Summary and Analysis 11
her old attitudes return. She doesn’t forgive Jane Fairfax a thing.
Mr. Knightley accuses Emma of pushing Jane for information. Emma says she only questioned her politely.
Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax arrive with the news that Mr. Elton is going to be married. Though the news
startles Emma, Jane is silent. Unlike Emma, she doesn’t form opinions about people she hasn’t met. Miss
Bates and Jane leave, followed by Harriet’s arrival. Emma is certain she looks flushed because she has heard
the news of Mr. Elton’s marriage. Instead, she tells Emma that she ran into the Martin family in a Highbury
shop, that though they approached her with hesitation, Mr. Martin spoke kindly to her. Emma attempts to
lessen Harriet’s interest in this encounter by blurting out news of Mr. Elton’s coming marriage. Still Harriet
won’t stop talking of the Martin family. Emma finally gets Harriet to admit that she is curious about whom he
Emma has little time for anybody she can’t manipulate. Though the Bates women are portrayed as kindly and
charitable, she gives them short shrift. She has no influence over Jane Fairfax who, in looks, manner and
talent, is her equal or better. She contents herself with imagining that Jane has seduced her own brother-in-law
and is coming to Highbury to avoid facing her family. Jane’s quiet reserve sharply contrasts Emma’s spirited
Even Harriet is getting harder to manipulate. Her chance encounter with the Martin family, particularly with
Mr. Martin, excites her so much that Emma has to work to divert her. Not long ago, Emma molded her every
thought. But Emma cannot let go. Far from dropping Harriet, Emma feels relieved that her powerful circle of
influence will insulate Harriet from any further encounters with the dreaded Robert Martin and his family.
Chapters 22-24 Summary and Analysis
Augusta Hawkins: Mr. Elton’s fiancée
Frank Churchill: Mr. Weston’s son and Mrs. Weston’s stepson
Miss Augusta Hawkins, the intended bride of Mr. Elton, is the focus of Highbury gossip. Townspeople learn
that she has money and beauty and feel her well-suited to be the wife of their vicar. Emma cannot hear about
either of them without feeling a pain. She considers their coupling a lesson in humility for her and turns her
attentions to Harriet.
Though Emma has talked Harriet into being in love, she is having difficulty talking her out of it. The chance
encounter with the Martin family and Mr. Elton’s engagement have put Harriet into a flurry of confusion.
Matters are worsened when Elizabeth Martin shows up at Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school and drops off a
note in Harriet’s absence. Emma decides that Harriet will return the note with a visit, but knows it must be
Though the visit begins coolly, the Martin sisters and Harriet manage to renew the memories of her visit last
autumn. Emma puts a halt to the festivities when she pulls up in her carriage to fetch Harriet. On the way
home, Emma is so distraught over Harriet’s silence that she stops at Randalls for consolation. Mr. and Mrs.
Weston are not at home, but Emma passes their carriage, and they tell her that Frank Churchill will be arriving
Chapters 19-21 Summary and Analysis 12
Emma is gleefully introduced to Frank by his father who is overcome with joy that his son has come at last.
Emma is cautious in her appraisal of Frank, though she observes he is well-bred. He opens with small talk and
moves on to flattery. He praises his father, his stepfather, his stepmother, his new stepmother Mrs. Weston,
Randalls, Hartfield, and Highbury. Emma wonders if he thinks her as suitable a match for him as she has
fancied he would be for her. Because of his acquaintance with Jane Fairfax, Frank inquires about the Bates
family with whom she is staying. His father urges him to pay her a call. Mr. Woodhouse offers to let his
servant show Frank where the house is. Frank declines, and he and his father set off.
On their second meeting, Emma notes that Frank behaves warmly toward Mrs. Weston, and that his behavior
signals his wish that he and Emma become close. They walk toward Highbury and pass the Crown Inn, which
Frank envisions as an excellent place for a ball. When Emma questions him about his visit to the Bates house,
he is evasive about Jane Fairfax. Emma attempts to draw him into a discussion of Jane’s health, complexion,
musical ability, and the possibility of a romance between her and her brother-in-law. Frank remains
noncommittal, though completely amiable.
When Frank suggests that Emma knows Jane better than he, being her childhood friend, Emma confesses that
she has never been close to Jane because she is envious of her talents and finds her too reserved, which
suggests to Emma that she must be hiding something. Frank agrees, and Emma feels their like minds are the
basis for a strong friendship. Reflecting on Mr. Elton’s small house, Frank announces that because it will be
filled with the love of Mr. Elton for his new bride, it is roomy enough. Mrs. Weston finds this amusing since
Frank has never lived in a small house. Emma is certain Frank is signaling a willingness to marry early, not
for money but for love.
Now that she can no longer match Harriet with Mr. Elton, Emma is determined to control Harriet’s
relationship with Robert Martin. She plans every detail of Harriet’s courtesy call on the Martins. When
Harriet returns confused and upset, Emma is too fixed on the rightness of her scheme to console her. She fixes
instead on the arrival of Frank Churchill because he is fresh and untainted by her disastrous meddling.
To her growing surprise, Emma cannot manipulate Frank Churchill. Here is someone of her own class who
often appears to be outmaneuvering her. His language is purposely ambiguous, especially when it concerns
Jane Fairfax. Emma cannot penetrate the haze he has created around their relationship. She must content
herself to judge Frank however she will, for he is too clever to be tricked into revealing any genuine feelings.
Chapters 25-26 Summary and Analysis
Mr. and Mrs. Cole: tradespeople of Highbury
Frank travels sixteen miles to get his hair cut, leaving himself open to criticism for his extravagance. Emma
tries to keep his vanity in proportion, thinking it a small barrier to the love affair she is sure will blossom
The Coles plan a party that will include the society of Highbury into which they are quickly rising. Emma is
determined to decline their invitation, but when it comes it is so considerate and respectful that she asks the
Westons for advice, hoping they will give her encouragement. When they do, she hastily accepts and makes
arrangements for her father to be taken care of when she is out. Though there is no hurrying Mr. Woodhouse
into a decision, he agrees, provided Emma leaves the party early. When Mrs. Weston reminds him that an
early departure might offend the Coles, Mr. Woodhouse allows her a late stay. She agrees, provided he
Chapters 22-24 Summary and Analysis 13
promises not to sit up and wait for her.
Emma is received most cordially at the Cole’s party. Her uppercrust society friends are all in attendance,
though Mrs. and Miss Bates and Jane aren’t expected until after dinner. She is pleased to find Frank seated
next to her and suspects he had something to do with the arrangement. The topic of Jane Fairfax is overheard,
and Emma finds herself listening intently. The gossip swirls around a small piano that just arrived at the
Bates’ house. Mrs. Cole suspects Col. and Mrs. Campbell sent it, though no mention of the gift was made in a
Emma is convinced that Mr. Dixon sent the instrument as a secret love offering and concocts a story to match
her theory. Frank appears to go along with the story. Emma surmises that Mr. Dixon and Mrs. Dixon sent the
pianoforte to keep Jane happy in Highbury and away from Ireland and any possibility of coming between
them. She offers shreds of evidence to prove her theory. It is known that Mr. Dixon saved Jane’s life during a
shipboard party, which Emma finds intriguing. Frank counters that he was there during the incident and
noticed nothing unusual that would link them romantically.
When Emma further engages Frank about his own life at Enscombe, she learns that he has a way of
persuading Mrs. Churchill that his father lacks, and that his social life there is tepid. She concludes that he
could be just as happy in Highbury. Later in the drawing room, Emma spies Frank staring at Jane Fairfax from
across the room, though he claims not to be looking at her, but her hairdo.
Mrs. Weston is brimming with excitement. She tells Emma that her matchmaking has rubbed off, and she is
determined to push the coupling of Jane Fairfax and Mr. Knightley. Emma is horrified at the prospect. If Mr.
Knightley married Jane, Emma’s nephew would be cut off from his rightful inheritance of Donwell Abbey.
Further, Mr. Knightley could only marry someone of Jane’s class out of kindness. Mrs. Weston and Emma
argue the matter until Emma is pressed to play and sing. She does so tolerably, though when Jane Fairfax sits
down, Emma is forced to feel the inferiority of her own talent. Frank joins Jane in song until her voice grows
Singing gives way to dancing, and Frank asks Emma to join him in a waltz. Emma accepts, though she keeps
a wary eye on Mr. Knightley and Jane. Nothing transpires between them that suggests they might be attracted,
and Emma returns her awareness to Frank, concluding that they make an attractive couple.
Emma’s continual manipulations have got her in over her head. She risks losing Frank’s respect by linking
Jane romantically with a married man without any proof. By persisting with this gossip, she risks losing what
little friendship she and Jane Fairfax have. She embroiders on the fiction that Frank cares for her when he is
only patronizing her gossip. Even worse, she condemns Mrs. Weston for matchmaking when she has spent the
last six weeks doing just that. When the subject of Miss Bates is brought up, she mimics her to Mrs. Weston,
showing just how skilled she is at character assassination.
But her worst offense is saved for Mr. Knightley. She is blind to his strength and gallantry. She insists his
offering Jane his coach was done out of sympathy for her delicate state of health and for no other reason. She
is appalled at the idea he could feel affection for a woman so beneath his class. She tells Mrs. Weston she
forbids such a match when, in truth, she has no control over Mr. Knightley or Jane. She cannot stop ordering
people’s lives and fails to take stock of her own.
Chapters 27-29 Summary and Analysis
Chapters 25-26 Summary and Analysis 14
The next day, Emma has pangs of regret that she gossiped about Jane Fairfax, but her deeper regret is that she
doesn’t play or sing as well as Jane does. Determined to improve, she sits down and practices until Harriet
comes in full of flattery for Emma’s superior playing. When Harriet goes off to Ford’s shop, Emma goes
with her, thinking to steer her away from any possible run in with Robert Martin.
At Ford’s shop, Harriet dawdles over her purchases while Emma looks down the road to see Mrs. Weston and
Frank coming toward them. Mrs. Weston announces that they are on their way to the Bates’ house to hear the
new pianoforte. When Frank sees Emma, he makes it plain that he prefers to stay with her, and a compromise
is struck. Mrs. Weston promises him that if he will come with her to the Bates’ house, they can go to
As the shopkeeper is wrapping Harriet’s package, Miss Bates and Mrs. Weston enter and invite Emma and
Harriet to come hear the pianoforte themselves. Miss Bates begins a lengthy monologue on her mother’s
broken spectacles, and the wholesomeness of baked apples versus apple dumplings. Her non-stop talk sets
Emma’s teeth on edge.
Once outside, Miss Bates chatters on. Mr. Knightley had called on them previously and seen Jane eating an
apple. He gathered she was fond of them and when their housekeeper told him they were nearly out, he sent
over a bushel of his best orchard apples. Miss Bates later learned from a servant that Mr. Knightley had sent
over the remaining store of his own apples for the ladies.
When Emma arrives at the Bates’ house, Frank is mending Mrs. Bates’ spectacles with a rivet. When they sit
down to hear Jane play, she is nervous. Frank begins to tease Emma about where the pianoforte might have
come from, and Emma asks him not to mention it. He persists until Jane is forced to respond that until she
receives a letter from Col. and Mrs. Campbell, nothing is certain. Frank requests that she play another tune,
and when she does, he makes a reference to Weymouth, and she blushes, then changes tunes.
Frank suggests a tune from Ireland—yet another reference to the affair Jane might have had with her
brother-in-law who is currently staying there. He needles her until Emma asks him to slow down. He makes
yet another reference to the brother-in-law just before Miss Bates interrupts by calling out to Mr. Knightley,
who appears outside on horseback. He declines to come in, though inquires if the women in the house need
anything he can bring them from Kingsbury where he is headed. Miss Bates tells him how shocked they are
that he had sent them the last of his apples, but he rides off. Before Miss Bates has a chance to replay the
entire conversation, Emma departs.
Frank insists that a second ball be held. He and Emma discuss with Mrs. Weston where it best might be held.
The Cole’s house is decided against because the guest list is too large to accommodate everyone there.
Randalls is suggested as a possibility, and they begin marking off the drawing room to see if ten couples could
fit and still have room to dance. Emma thinks the room too small, but Frank sees potential there.
The next day brings Frank again and his idea that their ball should be held at the Crown Inn in Highbury. He
has already sent Mr. and Mrs. Weston there to survey it and discuss logistics. After working his way around
Mr. Woodhouse’s objections, he takes Emma to the Crown, and they debate the merits of a stand up or sit
down dinner, and how the room will be lit and who will attend. Frank wants to call in another opinion,
suggesting Miss Bates be brought in. Emma protests, but is overruled by Mr. Weston. Upon Miss Bates’
approval, the date of the ball is fixed, and Frank asks Emma to be his partner for the first two dances.
Emma knows she is engaging in slanderous gossip about Jane Fairfax, but she persists. She seems set on
putting Jane down to make herself look better. She chooses to collude with Frank about Jane’s supposed
Chapters 27-29 Summary and Analysis 15
affair rather than ask Jane outright if there is any truth in it. For a woman to whom manners are all, she
displays very bad ones.
Far from learning lessons of misplaced meddling, Emma still pulls the strings on Harriet. She accompanies
her to the shop only to prevent a chance meeting with Robert Martin and not out of any real friendship. Her
actions indicate that she is keeping Harriet in a holding pattern until she decides who next to match her with.
Frank’s motives come under closer scrutiny in these chapters as well. Why is he purposely talking in such a
way that could hurt Jane Fairfax? He hints at the alleged liaison so broadly, even Emma asks him to be still. In
response, he gives Emma credit for leading him into thinking Jane had an affair, saying Emma is far more
clever than he. His behavior is a mystery.
Chapters 30-31 Summary and Analysis
Preparations for the ball dictate that it be held later than Frank Churchill has been permitted to stay. When he
requests an extended leave in order to attend, Mr. and Mrs. Churchill grudgingly give their consent. Thinking
the matter settled, Emma is again thwarted by Mr. Knightley, who remains unmoved by the prospect of a ball
despite her attempts to excite him about it. Two days later, a letter arrives from the Churchills urging their son
to return home as his mother is unwell.
When he comes to say good-bye to Emma, she cannot help but feel touched by his display of dejection and
loss at having to leave Highbury. She learns that he has stopped at the Bates’ house to say good-bye before
coming to Hartfield. Emma inquires about his visit there and is met with a response so ambiguous that she
interprets it to mean Frank is in love with her. After Frank is ushered out by his father, Emma is sorry to see
him go. She fears she might miss him too much.
Mr. Knightley expresses genuine regret that Emma won’t be able to dance now that there will be no ball, but
Jane Fairfax surprises her by being flat-out unmoved by the cancellation. Emma wants to blame her behavior
on ill health, but really cannot forgive her for not seeming to care.
After Frank leaves, Emma spends her days busying herself with the usual tasks while fantasizing about Frank
Churchill. Her fantasies always end in their parting as friends, so she thinks she could not be too much in love
with him. A letter arrives from Frank, and Mrs. Weston presents it to her. The letter is proper, respectful, and
includes acknowledgment to Emma. A note at the bottom asks Emma to forgive him for not having time to
say good-bye to Harriet. Emma finds the glow she first got from reading the letter does not linger. She is
curiously struck by Frank’s mention of Harriet and fleetingly wonders whether or not the two might be a
The society of Highbury turns from talk of Frank to Mr. Elton’s new bride, who will soon be in town. Emma
is sickened by all the talk. It means she will again have to deal with Harriet’s sorrow at being rejected. She
decides on a new approach and berates Harriet for focusing on the loss of Mr. Elton because it offends Emma.
Since Emma attempted the match, she claims to have suffered quite as much as Harriet who lost it.
Emma’s browbeating has the effect of turning Harriet into a devoted follower once more, and she promises to
hold her tongue when the Eltons are mentioned. Emma thinks if Harriet is capable of this turnaround, she is a
valuable friend indeed. Harriet praises Emma’s good qualities and ingratiates herself anew. Emma holds
Harriet’s quality of tender-heartedness to be worthy of a new match and declares that the man will be happy
who gets Harriet instead of her.
Chapters 30-31 Summary and Analysis 16
Emma hurls herself along the trajectory of self-deception. She looks at Frank Churchill and sees that he is
smitten with her, though he has yet to take any action that shows he loves her. She weaves a complete fiction
of her future with Frank Churchill and ties it off neatly with a refusal of his love, though he has never
professed it. When Jane Fairfax doesn’t share her disappointment about the canceled ball, Emma faults
Jane’s ill health rather than looking deeper where she might discover the real reasons. Truth is something
Emma shirks from.
Tired of Harriet’s neediness and dependence, she faults the poor girl for expressing her feelings. Emma
cannot handle anyone’s feelings because she is too busy stifling her own. She is steeped in the customs and
language of her class to the point where she cannot express herself plainly and simply. She cannot even hear
anything plainly and simply. Instead of protecting the innocent Harriet, she plots yet another match, opening
her to yet another refusal.
Her justification whitewashes herself so thoroughly, she comes out looking saintly. Her insistence that
tender-heartedness overshadows clear-headedness would sound fine coming from anyone else, but she is
using this comparison for effect. With it, she elevates Harriet to a status she does not possess, nor ever will.
Emma thinks that in pushing Harriet around, some of her class status will rub off. She even places Harriet’s
virtues above her own. Her supreme folly forebodes a fall.
Chapters 32-33 Summary and Analysis
Emma pays a courtesy call to the new Mrs. Elton and brings Harriet along. So distracted is Emma by her
memories of the failed match between Harriet and Elton, she doesn’t form any immediate impression of his
new bride. Eager to know Emma’s opinion of her, Harriet compliments her beauty only to be corrected by
Emma’s scathing assessment. She proclaims that Mrs. Elton married to increase her status and fortune and
that she threw herself at Mr. Elton because he was likely to be her only prospect.
Harriet wishes them happiness and tells Emma that she is over Mr. Elton now that he is happily married.
Alone later, Emma sums up the new Mrs. Elton. She finds her vain, self-satisfied, pert, and limited in her
education and outlook. When the Eltons visit Hartfield, her opinions are proven. Mrs. Elton launches into a
string of comparisons between Hartfield and her home of Maple Grove.
Mrs. Elton probes Emma for the type of social life she might expect in Highbury, only to have Emma tell her
they are not social people and prefer staying home. Mrs. Elton sings the praises of staying home, but suggests
seclusion be balanced with travel. She suggests Emma try the waters of Bath and offers to introduce her to a
friend who could network her into the best society there.
Emma is appalled to think of being indebted to Mrs. Elton for anything. She tries to catch Mrs. Elton in a trap
by inquiring about her musical talent. Mrs. Elton insists she has none, but pushes Emma to form a musical
group so the two of them might play together. Mrs. Elton laments that she has so much to do with a new
household, she is in danger of letting her music lapse. Emma urges her to keep up, but finds her just as
determined to make excuses.
Mrs. Elton changes the subject. She has met Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley and says she was impressed by
their manners. The easy familiarity with which Mrs. Elton speaks of Emma’s two closest friends rubs Emma
the wrong way. When Mrs. Elton leaves, she shouts out a litany of her faults. She concludes that Harriet is far
superior to Mrs. Elton and wonders what Frank would think of her. She chides herself for thinking of Frank.
Chapters 32-33 Summary and Analysis 17
When she sees her father, he is full of self-reproach for not having paid a courtesy call to the bride, but admits
he doesn’t like the road leading to the vicarage. Emma excuses him for not liking matrimony. He bemoans
his lack of good manners. When her circle of friends in Highbury, led by Miss Bates, approve of Mrs. Elton,
Emma keeps her opinions to herself. Once she spots Jane Fairfax, Mrs. Elton sets her sights on improving the
poor girl’s lot. She sees Jane as neglected and going to waste in Highbury, a low-brow town that cannot
possibly appreciate her musical gifts. She suggests a partnership between her and Emma that would cause
Jane to be noticed and developed. She hints that she might be able to find Jane a position with her in-laws.
Emma notices a growing attachment of the Eltons to Jane Fairfax. She ponders that this is curious since
Jane’s pride and taste are not really suitable for the company she must be keeping at the vicarage. When Jane
stays on in Highbury, past the three months as was planned, Emma is curious. Emma learns of a letter from
Mrs. Dixon sent to Jane imploring her to come to Ireland, but she declines. Emma can’t understand why Jane
would prefer the Eltons’ company to the Dixons’ and her supposed lover, Mr. Dixon.
The subject of Jane Fairfax brings Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley into conversation with Emma. Emma
teases Mr. Knightley with being in love with Jane and planning to marry her. He tells her that though he
admires Jane, she lacks the open quality that he wants in a wife. Later, when Emma tells Mrs. Weston she was
wrong about Mr. Knightley’s attachment to Jane, Mrs. Weston tells her that he protests too much. She
predicts their match might come off yet.
Though Frank Churchill had come to Highbury to praise Emma, Mrs. Elton seems to be there to correct her.
All her references to her former life seem calculated to set her above Emma socially and culturally. All her
suggestions of where Emma should go and what she should do seem geared to underscore Emma’s isolation
and inferiority. Mrs. Elton is an outsider who doesn’t play by Emma’s rules. Her presence points up a
character flaw in Emma’s makeup.
Though Emma can mold the lives of the little people around her, like Harriet and her father and to some
extent, Mrs. Weston, she doesn’t attempt to influence those outside her sphere of influence. She has no hold
on Frank, Jane Fairfax, or Mrs. Elton. Rather than strike up a friendship with the new vicar’s wife to better
inform her opinions, she finds reasons to despise her. Emma wants complete control of people, and she wants
it on her terms.
Chapters 34-36 Summary and Analysis
Emma plans a dinner party for the Eltons. She does not wish to be thought of as overlooking them and thinks
people will talk if she doesn’t invite them. Just when everything is set, John Knightley appears with his two
sons for a visit with their grandpa, Mr. Woodhouse. Their arrival throws Emma’s seating arrangement into
disarray. She must plan to sit across from her brother-in-law whom she knows to be a reluctant
John Knightley surprises her by engaging in a lively conversation with Jane Fairfax. He tells her, and
everyone at the table, that he saw her that morning, in the rain, on her way to the post office. Mr. Woodhouse
chimes in that rain is unhealthy, and Mrs. Elton adds that she risked a cold going out. Mrs. Elton offers the use
of her servant to fetch Jane’s mail, but Jane declines.
Skillfully, Jane deflects the conversation to handwriting and the guests give their impressions of what
constitutes beautiful penmanship. Though momentarily uncertain of how to introduce Frank Churchill’s
name, Emma blurts out that he has a fine gentleman’s hand. Mr. Knightley finds it too small and lacking
Chapters 34-36 Summary and Analysis 18
strength. Emma promises to produce a specimen that will convince him otherwise. When the guests head to
dinner, Emma notices that Jane appears to be glowing with health. She assumes the letter that came is from
Ireland and her secret lover, Mr. Dixon. The two go into the dining room arm-in-arm. Once dinner is done, the
guests head back to the drawing room, where Mrs. Elton attaches herself to Jane Fairfax. Mrs. Elton urges her
to secure a governess position before the spring is over so that she can be employed by fall. Jane is most
insistent that Mrs. Elton not put out any feelers for her. She insists she will spend the summer doing just as
she is doing. When Mr. Weston comes in late, he brings a letter from Frank Churchill. The letter announces
Frank’s arrival next week. The Westons are thrilled, Emma is surprised at her confused feelings, and Mr.
Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley remain cool to the prospect. Mr. Weston approaches Mrs. Elton with the news.
There is more to Frank’s news than first reported. Mr. Weston tells Mrs. Elton that Frank is coming first to
London with his parents because Mrs. Churchill is ill and needs a more southerly climate. Though that will
mean Frank can make more frequent visits to Highbury, it also suggests to Mr. Weston that Mrs. Churchill is
using her illness to attach herself to Frank.
Mr. Weston gives Mrs. Elton a history of the Churchills. He characterizes Mr. Churchill as a bit stuffy, but
generally amiable. He claims the real ruler in the family is Mrs. Churchill, who was not born into the upper
class, but snatched all the privileges of it once she married up. Mrs. Elton seems more interested in the society
of Maple Grove than in anything Mr. Weston might reveal.
The spotlight is deflected from Emma in these chapters and focuses on the theme of class. Character behavior
cannot be separated from class distinctions. The townspeople of Highbury permit Emma her way because she
is from the richest and most powerful family in town. Emma cannot abide Mrs. Elton because she is clearly of
a lower rank. What is worse, she pretends to be of higher rank, with her name dropping and self-importance.
Mrs. Elton is compared with Mrs. Churchill, who came from lowly beginnings, married into the upper class,
and outdid them with her pride and arrogance. Women who put on airs, who step above their rank, are the
object of gossip and distrust.
Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill are orphans who were adopted into the upper classes. While Frank has
assumed the manners and privilege of that class, Jane is not so fortunate. Her family has given her a good
education, and she possesses the beauty and talent to move above her rank, but there are restrictions. She has
been trained to become a governess-a kind of educated servant. Happily for Jane, her adoptive parents cannot
let go of her and her future is not yet determined.
Emma hopes to polish Harriet in her own image and by associating with her, elevate her to a higher class.
Emma is discovering it takes more than association to create a masterpiece.
Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis
When Frank Churchill returns, he pays a brief call on Emma and hurries away to Highbury to make other
visits. From the beginning of their visit Emma senses that he is less in love with her than he had been during
his former visit. Though he is as outwardly friendly and lively as ever regarding small matters, she detects an
indifference toward her. Frank does not visit her again for the next ten days.
Emma learns that Frank’s aunt, Mrs. Churchill, cannot endure London and is moving the family to
Richmond, nine miles from Highbury. Frank writes that he is happy with the move, as it situates him even
closer to Highbury and more frequent visits. Plans are resumed to hold the ball at the Crown Inn.
Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis 19
On the day of the ball, Mr. Weston urges Emma to come early. She agrees and brings Harriet along. Guests
arrive and introductions are made. Emma is eager to know what Frank thinks of Mrs. Elton, whom he has
never met. The Eltons have agreed to bring Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax with them, but arrive alone. Another
carriage is sent and when it returns, Frank rushes out with an umbrella he says is for Miss Bates.
Mrs. Elton solicits Mr. Weston for compliments. But all chatter is drowned out when the talkative Miss Bates
enters the room. Mrs. Elton is smugly certain the ball is being held in her honor and claims Frank Churchill
and she will lead off the dancing. Mrs. Weston persuades her husband to dance with Mrs. Elton instead,
freeing Frank to partner with Emma.
The dance begins with Mrs. Elton and Mr. Weston leading the procession, and Emma and Frank in second
place. Used to being first, Emma has to contend herself with the prospect of an evening full of festivities. Her
only disappointment is Mr. Knightley. She observes him standing around talking to the other guests, looking
When Emma looks around, she spies Harriet sitting alone. She watches as Mrs. Weston tries to persuade Mr.
Elton to dance. Mr. Elton jokes that he doesn’t dance, but will do so if Mrs. Weston will dance with him. She
does not respond. Emma is shocked at his behavior, but pleased when Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance.
Mr. Elton retreats, looking sheepish. Mrs. Elton tells her partner that Mr. Knightley is dancing with Harriet
out of sympathy. Harriet enjoys herself in Mr. Knightley’s capable arms. When supper is announced, Miss
Bates begins a non-stop monologue that finishes when the eating is begun.
After supper, Mr. Knightley tells Emma that Mr. Elton’s conduct was unpardonably rude. He understands
how they might aim to wound Harriet, but wonders what Emma has done to make them her enemies. He
knows Emma wanted Mr. Elton to marry Harriet, but relieves her of another scolding. He tells her that he
leaves her to her own conscience in the matter. They end the evening by dancing together.
The following morning Emma thinks the Eltons are horrid and that Harriet is cured of her infatuation with Mr.
Elton. She further reflects that Frank Churchill is not too much in love with her, and Mr. Knightley hadn’t
quarreled with her for her meddling. She looks forward to a happy summer. Just then, Frank appears at her
gate holding a pale and shaken Harriet Smith. Harriet faints into a chair and is revived long enough to tell
what happened. On her way home from the ball, she was set upon by a group of gypsies. Frank was walking
near his carriage on the same road and rushed to her aid. He sent the gypsies packing and brought her
immediately to Hartfield. Once Frank is certain Harriet is well, he leaves. Their shared adventure gives Emma
ideas of matchmaking Harriet and Frank. She feels that they are both in a favorable state of mind for such a
union. Better still, she won’t have to do much since fate has thrown them together.
Emma is experiencing some closure on the events she has set into motion, though still no insight. The Eltons
behaved so abominably towards Harriet at the ball, she can dismiss them righteously. Mr. Elton has shown his
true inferiority to Harriet and freed her of any lingering feelings toward him. Frank Churchill’s behavior has
proven to Emma that he isn’t completely in love with her, freeing her from having to refuse him. Mr.
Knightley didn’t even quarrel with her at the ball. Emma takes satisfaction that things are finally going her
The icing on the cake materializes when Frank and Harriet come in from their fateful encounter. Frank saved
the helpless Harriet from being set upon by gypsies. Emma sees this meeting as providential. Because fate
threw the two together, she won’t even have to get actively involved in matchmaking. She can sit back and
watch their coupling unfold before her eyes.
Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis 20
Chapters 40-42 Summary and Analysis
Harriet shows Emma the contents of a small parcel. It contains a small ceramic box with a piece of court
plaister inside. Not long ago, Harriet had wrapped Mr. Elton’s cut finger with it. Along with the plaister is the
head of a pencil. Harriet recounts that Mr. Elton once used the pencil to write in his notebook. Harriet resolves
to throw both keepsakes into the fireplace. She does so proclaiming that this act spells the end of her feelings
for Mr. Elton. Then Harriet says she will never marry.
Emma suggests Harriet’s vow means that she must be currently attracted to someone of superior rank. Harriet
replies that this someone is so superior she can only content herself to admire him from a distance. Emma
explains that it’s only natural to feel that way since this someone did her a service. Harriet replies that it was
more of an obligation. Emma cautions Harriet not to get carried away before she is certain her feelings are
returned. Then, she tells Harriet that matches of greater disparity have been made before and compliments her
As June settles in, Mr. Knightley grows puzzled. Mr. and Mrs. Weston make much of Frank’s intentions
toward Emma. He has seen how attentive he is to her, yet he suspects Frank of double dealing. He has picked
up signals that Frank also admires Jane Fairfax. He had noticed him giving her looks at a dinner party at the
Elton’s house when Emma was not present.
Mr. Knightley joins Emma and Harriet for an evening walk. They encounter Mr. and Mrs. Weston and Frank.
As they make small talk, Mr. Perry rides up on his horse and greets them before riding off. Once he has gone,
Frank asks Mrs. Weston when Mr. Perry will be buying a new carriage. Mrs. Weston doesn’t know what
he’s talking about, though Frank claims she wrote him about the proposed purchase. Mrs. Weston is sure she
never wrote any such thing.
Frank decides he must have dreamed it and changes the subject. Miss Bates begins a long speech in which she
says her family knew of the Perry’s plan to purchase a carriage. She asserts though she is a great talker, she
has kept the secret, and that Jane is the type of person who would never betray a confidence.
Mr. Knightley is on his guard as they head toward Hartfield. He scrutinizes Frank’s face for any secret
signals to Jane, but sees none. After tea, Frank suggests a game with Emma’s nephew’s alphabet letters
where one guest will mix up a word, and the others try to decipher it. Frank spells a word and thrusts it toward
Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley notices and suspects the two are sharing a secret.
Another word is mixed and Frank shows it to Emma. The word is “Dixon,” which Emma finds highly
entertaining. When Frank suggests showing it to Jane, Emma protests laughingly. Frank shows it to Jane, and
she and Mr. Knightley decipher it together. Mr. Knightley cannot guess its meaning, and Jane blushes. Jane
leaves with Miss Bates, and Mr. Knightley sits riddled with doubts. When he asks Emma what the word
“Dixon” means, Emma tells him the whole thing was a joke. Mr. Knightley asks Emma if she thinks there is
something between Frank and Jane. Emma vociferously denies any such possibility. Overpowered by
Emma’s certainty, Mr. Knightley walks home in silence.
Disappointed that her brother’s visit has been postponed, Mrs. Elton suggests their immediate circle go
exploring to Box Hill. Though Emma would rather not have gone with Mrs. Elton, she chooses not to fault
Mr. Weston for helping to plan the outing. Her scolding him would only hurt his wife, who is expecting a
Chapters 40-42 Summary and Analysis 21
Just as the party plans are being set, a lame carriage horse disrupts them. The party cannot travel to Box Hill
en masse as Mrs. Elton wanted. Mr. Knightley suggests they all come to Donwell Abbey and eat his
strawberries, which are just ripening. Mrs. Elton seizes on the idea and begins elaborate preparations for a
picnic. Mr. Knightley requests a simple indoor dinner. With his blunt manner, he prevails.
When the horse recovers, the party decides to gather one day at Donwell, the next at Box Hill. The guests
arrive, and Emma is reaquainted with the Abbey and feels proud to be associated with such a splendid estate
by her sister’s marriage into the Knightley family. Her father is settled by the fire, and the guests go to gather
strawberries. The party assembles to take in the view from Donwell’s hill. It is of a snug, prosperous valley,
the centerpiece of which is the Abbey-Mill farm, the home of Robert Martin.
When they go inside to dine, Emma finds Mrs. Weston anxious that Frank has not yet arrived. After dinner,
the guests go exploring again, and Emma goes to sit with her father. She encounters Jane Fairfax in the hall,
and Jane tells her she is going to return to Highbury on foot and asks Emma to make apologies for her leaving.
Emma expresses her concern for Jane’s health and safety, but Jane is determined. Fifteen minutes later, Frank
Churchill arrives and blames his mother for his lateness. She has had another seizure. Frank complains of the
heat, and Emma observes that he appears cross. Frank leaves to join the others for dinner and comes back
more composed. He confesses to Emma that he longs to escape England and go abroad. He claims that his
family thwarts him.
Emma invites him to Box Hill on the following day, but he declines. If he leaves for Richmond now and has
to come again to Highbury tomorrow, he will be cross, but to stay in Richmond will make him even crosser
because he will miss them all. To solve the dilemma, he agrees to join the party—if Emma will be there.
In these chapters, Emma’s follies reach a new plateau. When Harriet reveals the contents of her little box,
Emma regrets her past deceptions, but not enough to retire from matchmaking. The moment after Emma
repents her past trickery, she lures Harriet into a new and riskier relationship with someone even higher in
class than Mr. Elton. Emma raises the stakes by not speaking the name of the person she hopes to pair with
Harriet, but we know she is thinking of Frank Churchill.
When Mr. Knightley suggests there may be something between Frank and Jane Fairfax, Emma scoffs. She
cannot see past her own manipulations. Blind to what transpires between Frank and Jane, Emma leaves herself
open to become their pawn.
Emma persists in telling everyone else’s story. When the women view Abbey-Mill farm from afar, Emma is
filled with relief that because Harriet no longer cares about Robert Martin, seeing his home will not affect her.
She even tells herself that Robert Martin has probably forgotten Harriet, thus absolving herself from the pain
she caused them both.
Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis
Although the party at Box Hill appears pleasant, Emma feels the gaiety is forced. People are separating into
rigid groups, and Emma is growing restless. Frank acts listless and has nothing lively to say until he sits next
to her. He initiates a flirtation which the others observe in silence.
To rouse them, Frank suggests a game. He announces that Emma has directed them to speak out what they are
thinking. Though Miss Bates seizes the opportunity, Mrs. Elton acts offended that Emma should be in charge
of the game. Mr. Knightley questions Emma directly, and Frank changes the game. Now the guests are to say
Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis 22
one very clever thing, two moderately clever ones,
or three dull ones. Miss Bates offers that it will be easy for her to say three dull things. Emma reminds her that
she will be limited to three. Stung by the insult, Miss Bates wonders aloud what she could have done to incur
Emma’s wrath. Mr. Weston covers her social gaffe by suggesting they play conundrums. Mrs. Elton protests
that she is not a clever woman, but a lively one, and ill-suited for this sort of game. Mr. Elton excuses himself
as well and goes off with his wife to soothe her ruffled feelings.
Frank offers snide comments about the pair and suggests their marriage was made too hastily for Mr. Elton to
have time to have formed any judgment about his bride, and that now, he may be regretting it. Jane Fairfax
argues that only a weak man would let such a thing happen. Frank turns his attention to Emma, imploring her
to choose a wife for him.
With the guests gone, Mr. Knightley scolds Emma for her unkind remarks to Miss Bates. He accuses her of
picking on someone who is poor, helpless and too humble to fight back. Mr. Knightley trusts that Emma will
make it up to her. He leads Emma to her carriage and rides quickly away on horseback. Emma is mortified.
She knows that Mr. Knightley has spoken the truth. She cries for having insulted Miss Bates and exposing her
bad manners to Mr. Knightley.
Emma spends the evening with her father and calls on Miss Bates the next day, resolved to make up for her
bad behavior. Once there, she is received by Miss Bates, but not by Jane, whom her aunt says is indisposed.
She tells Emma that Jane will be leaving them soon and that she has been writing letters all morning to the
point of exhaustion. Emma learns that Jane has accepted a governess position for a family that Mrs. Elton has
connected her with. She leaves feeling guilty at having concocted cruel stories about Jane.
At home, she finds Mr. Knightley and Harriet sitting with her father. Mr. Knightley is in a rush to leave for
London. When he learns that she has paid a call on the Bates’ women, he begins to kiss her hand, but lets it
go and departs swiftly. Emma hopes his unfinished gesture means he has recaptured a good opinion of her.
The next day brings news that Mrs. Churchill has died. Though those around her speak respectfully at her
passing, Emma wonders if her death won’t free Frank. She imagines that he will now have no impediment to
an alliance with Harriet Smith. Emma feels sorry for Jane Fairfax, who seems to have far fewer prospects now
than Harriet. She writes her a note inviting her to come visit, but is refused. Mr. Perry prescribes fresh air to
help Jane’s physical malaise, and Emma invites her again to come. Again, she is refused.
Later, Emma learns that Jane was spotted in a meadow near Highbury. She convinces herself that Jane
doesn’t want a thing from her and berates herself for not having been a better friend. She consoles herself by
thinking that if Mr. Knightley could see her, he would approve her attempts at friendliness.
The veneer of gentility surrounding Emma Woodhouse is beginning to crack. Though Frank’s flirtations are
as on display as ever, she suspects they are for show. She hopes to regain control by deflecting his feelings for
her to Harriet. But she loses control when she puts down Miss Bates in public. Her actions inflame Mr.
Knightley, who chastises her enough to make her feel shame and grief for the first time she can remember.
She lets all her composure go in a torrent of tears.
When she goes to the Bates’ house to apologize, she lets herself be derailed by her curiosity in the future of
Jane Fairfax and forgets why she came. Failing to make an apology, she has to content herself with good
Self-doubts follow her into her own home. She questions her father’s fondness for her, knowing she has done
nothing to earn it. When he gives her credit for looking after the Bates’ women, she can only blush in shame.
Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis 23
She hopes to recoup some self-respect by offering Jane Fairfax help time and again. Each time she is refused,
Emma takes it personally. She wonders at this young woman who has no real status, yet wields so much
Chapters 46-47 Summary and Analysis
Ten days later, Mr. Weston shows up to take Emma to Randalls where Mrs. Weston informs her that Jane
Fairfax and Frank are engaged and have been since the fall. Mrs. Weston is disappointed, but Emma is livid.
She questions how he could have shown so much attention to her when he loved Jane instead. She says his
actions go beyond impropriety and that he has sunk very low in her regard.
Mrs. Weston tells Emma that Mr. Churchill gave his ready consent to the match. When Emma inquires if the
Campbells or the Dixons knew anything, Mrs. Weston assures her the engagement had been a closely-guarded
secret between Frank and Jane. Emma grows angry again as she thinks of them in league with each other and
how they conspired to dupe everyone.
Mrs. Weston tries to smooth things over by announcing that it is now time to wish them well. Emma takes
offense. She accuses Jane of thinking only of herself. She berates them both for defying society and writing
their own rules. Emma reasserts control of herself when Mr. Weston comes in, confirms the engagement, and
swears Emma to secrecy. She chides him for bringing her all the way to Randalls before telling her the news,
but congratulates him on his new daughter-in-law.
Alone later, Emma wails for poor Harriet. Emma blames herself for being duped a second time by a man she
had designated for Harriet. She understands now why Jane refused to have anything to do with her. She thinks
Jane felt jealous and saw Emma as a rival for Frank’s affection. Emma fears the news of Frank’s
engagement may wound Harriet even more than Mr. Elton’s did. She plans to break her vow of secrecy and
reveal the engagement to Harriet. Coming into the room, Harriet belts out the secret of Jane and Frank. She
says Mr. Weston told her and cautioned her not to tell anyone. Harriet is curiously unmoved by the news.
Emma assures her that she knew nothing of their engagement, and if she had, would have revealed it to
Harriet to keep her from getting involved with Frank.
Harriet questions why Emma thinks Frank is the object of her affection. Their misunderstanding is unraveled.
When Emma referred to someone of superior rank and made reference to matches of greater disparity having
taken place, she meant Frank Churchill. Harriet meant Mr. Knightley, whom she considers infinitely superior.
When Emma asks Harriet if she has reason to believe her affection is returned, Harriet says she does, and
Emma is thrown into a whirl of feelings. The next moment, she sees clearly that she wants Mr. Knightley to
marry her. In a flash, her own conduct becomes clear. She has behaved intolerably. She fights to gain control
of herself so she can find out exactly what has gone on between him and Harriet.
Harriet tells her that she has become aware of a change in Mr. Knightley’s attitude toward her lately. He has
sought out her company and drawn her into private conversation. Emma feels displaced. When Harriet leaves,
she cries out that she wishes she had never seen Harriet Smith.
Emma feels wretched. She reviews the deceptions, the blunders, and the pain she has caused everyone,
especially herself. She never loved Frank Churchill. She had persuaded herself to act one way, the whole time
feeling another. And worst of all, she introduced Harriet to Mr. Knightley. If Harriet now had ideas of
marrying above her station, it is because Emma gave them to her.
Chapters 46-47 Summary and Analysis 24
In these chapters, Emma moves from self-deception to self-awareness. When she first learns of Frank and
Jane’s secret engagement, she is offended that the two of them would flaunt social convention. But that is
exactly what Emma has been doing all along. As long as Emma is manipulating Harriet, she justifies herself.
When she realizes that Frank and Jane have been manipulating her, she flies into a rage.
Emma continues her charade of self-justification when Harriet arrives. She leaks the secret of the engagement
to Harriet to protect her from further involvement with Frank. Then, her plan misfires. She discovers Harriet
isn’t in love with Frank at all, but with Mr. Knightley. That news shatters Emma’s hold on Harriet and
releases Emma’s pent up feelings for Mr. Knightley. Emma is in love with Mr. Knightley, and she didn’t
know it until Harriet came forth with her own feelings about him. Though her past behavior depresses her, her
current heart propels her to act. She can think only of Mr. Knightley and how to have him.
Whereas Emma had been Harriet’s mentor, she is now Harriet’s rival. The simple, submissive girl has
blossomed into a woman who is ready to make a match on her own. Emma has been scheming to push Harriet
into an alliance. She must now make plans to push her away from one.
Chapters 48-49 Summary and Analysis
Now that she is threatened with losing him, Emma is struck by how much her happiness has always depended
on Mr. Knightley’s approval. She reviews their family ties, their visits, and their quarrels. Hope for any future
with him seems doubtful because Harriet is in love with him, and Emma can’t be sure to whom Mr.
Knightley will give his affection. She reasons that Harriet has proof that Mr. Knightley favors her, but Emma
Emma hopes Harriet is overrating Mr. Knightley’s interest in her. She reflects that since she has promised her
father never to marry, the only situation that will bring her peace is if she were to discover that Mr. Knightley
wants to remain single. Harriet’s presence is now too painful for Emma to endure, and she writes to her
asking her not to come to Hartfield. Harriet agrees.
Mrs. Weston arrives and tells Emma she has just paid a courtesy call on her daughter-in-law elect, Jane
Fairfax, and tells her about the visit. After offering her profoundest regret for hiding her engagement, Jane
made amends to her future mother-in-law. Mrs. Weston then invited Jane for a walk to speak more privately,
and she discovered the depths of Jane’s misery at living with a lie.
Emma sympathizes and fears that she must have contributed to Jane’s misery. Mrs. Weston explains that the
charade often made Jane anxious and irritable and that she had not given Emma an opportunity to be kind to
her. Emma wishes the happy couple well and concludes that though Frank has more money, Jane has more
merit as a person.
Mrs. Weston defends Frank, but Emma’s thoughts are of Mr. Knightley in London. Mrs. Weston leaves
Emma more convinced of her past injustice to Jane Fairfax. She regrets not getting close to her and becoming,
if not an intimate, at least a friend who would not have accused Jane of an improper attachment to her
The evening ends with Emma attending her father. She has a sense of foreboding that Highbury would be
deserted in the coming months, and she would be without any lively company or gay visits. She foresees
neither Frank nor Jane nor Harriet nor Mr. Knightley nor Mr. and Mrs. Weston, who will be taken up with the
care of their expected baby, having any interest in her. She resolves to conduct herself better in hope of
Chapters 48-49 Summary and Analysis 25
regaining some composure.
Mr. Knightley returns from London, and Emma is puzzled as to how to interpret his behavior. She fears he
will seek her approval to marry Harriet and is on her guard. Mr. Knightley tells her he knows about the secret
engagement and takes her arm. He soothes her with comforting words, thinking she is smarting from the news
of Frank’s engagement to someone else, but she tells him he is mistaken. She admits she behaved poorly, but
has no other reason to feel unhappy about the match.
Emma admits first to having her vanity flattered by Frank’s attentions and later to feeling his attentions were
a trick. She says that though he imposed on her, he didn’t injure her. She recognized that she was a cover, not
the object of his true affections. Mr. Knightley compliments Frank on finding a young lady as perfect as Jane
Fairfax and wishes him well. Then he says he is envious of Frank.
Emma works up the courage to ask Mr. Knightley why he is envious. She fears he will ask her if she thinks he
should marry Harriet. Instead, he professes his love for Emma and asks that she respond. Where Emma has
feared that he loved Harriet, she now rejoices that she was wrong. She has received Mr. Knightley’s
declaration of love without revealing Harriet’s love for him. She is more convinced than ever that it was an
unequal match to begin with but knows she led Harriet into it. She admits to loving him and asks him to
explain what possessed him to open up about his feelings now.
Mr. Knightley tells her that he had no intention of bringing them up, but stumbled into the revelation when he
attempted to soothe Emma over Frank’s engagement. He relates that his jealousy of Frank probably caused
him to leave for London, but when he got there Emma’s sister, Isabella, and the domestic bliss he found at
Brunswick Square reminded him of her. When he received the letter announcing Jane and Frank’s
engagement, he returned immediately and his true feelings came out naturally. The two enter Hartfield arm in
In these chapters, Emma regrets her past manipulations and lets in the truth. Emma had elevated Harriet to the
heights of Mr. Knightley. Now she cannot stop loving him herself. Neither can she step forward to claim him
because she’s promised her father never to marry. Uncertain of his true feelings, she must settle for a tenuous
hold on the status quo.
Emma can’t think back on her history with Mr. Knightley without seeing how undeserving she has been of
his care and protection. He had loved and watched over her since she was a girl, and she had responded with
negligence and insolence. Her penance will be seeing him marry another woman—a woman she manipulated
into their circle.
Just as the dreary morning breaks into a clear afternoon, Mr. Knightley, the symbol of clarity, pierces the
shrubbery and strides in. He counsels Emma to clear her head of Frank Churchill, and, finding she has done
the job on her own, he reveals his love for her.
In a mere half hour, truth scatters the clouds of ignorance, jealousy, and distrust. Emma reveals her love in
return and begins to let in some happiness, which up to now she has been too busy scheming to accept.
Chapters 50-52 Summary and Analysis
During the night, Emma suffers pangs of guilt about her father and Harriet. She resolves never to leave her
father. As long as he is alive, she can only be engaged to Mr. Knightley. She ponders how to spare Harriet
Chapters 50-52 Summary and Analysis 26
from pain. In an attempt to stave off the day when she must tell Harriet the truth, Emma plots to get an
invitation for Harriet from her sister to come and visit them in London.
A letter arrives with a note of introduction from Mrs. Weston followed by a lengthy letter from Frank
Churchill. It is a letter of explanation and apology addressed to his stepmother. Frank asks her forgiveness for
not making his obligatory visit to her sooner. He confesses to coming to Highbury for the sole purpose of
being near his fiancée, and regrets using Emma as his ostensible love object. He says he was certain she
wasn’t interested in an attachment, so the arrangement suited him perfectly. He professes brotherly affection
for Emma and asks her forgiveness.
He tells Mrs. Weston that he sent the pianoforte, and that Jane would not have permitted it if she knew
beforehand, so he sent it unannounced. He explains his lateness at the strawberry party at Donwell Abbey. He
had a quarrel with Jane whom he met on the road to Highbury. She hadn’t liked his flirting with Emma.
When Jane learned that Frank had gone back to Enscombe after the Box Hill party, she wrote to Mrs. Elton’s
friend and accepted the position as governess.
Frank begged Jane to be patient with him, but she broke the engagement and returned all his letters. That act
caused Frank to take action. He went to his father and revealed everything. His father gave his blessing and he
was reconciled with Jane. The letter closed with deep thanks to Mrs. Weston and acknowledgment of Emma.
When Mr. Knightley arrives, Emma insists he read Frank’s letter. He approaches it warily and settles on a
line-by-line analysis wherein he blames Frank and acquits Emma. He sympathizes for Jane and would rather
not speak about the Eltons when they are mentioned.
Mr. Knightley turns the subject to marriage. He respectfully asks how the two of them might marry without
causing Mr. Woodhouse to be unhappy. Mr. Knightley had at first believed that the two of them could take
Emma’s father with them to Donwell, but he later saw that would not be wise. Any removal of Mr.
Woodhouse from Hartfield might prove disastrous. He suggests moving to Hartfield. Emma mulls over the
idea and decides it’s best for their mutual good that Mr. Knightley come to live with them. Her happiness
would be increased if it weren’t for Harriet, and Emma regrets that she will have to keep Harriet away from
Hartfield for her own good. It would hurt her too much, and she had done nothing to deserve it. Emma
concludes that forgetting about Mr. Knightley won’t be easy for Harriet, but Emma cannot expect that she
will turn her affections on yet another man this year.
Harriet goes to London in Mr. Woodhouse’s carriage to be with Emma’s sister in Brunswick Square. Emma
is relieved knowing that she won’t have to face Harriet for at least two weeks. Emma decides not to tell her
father about her marriage until Mrs. Weston has given birth.
Struck by the coincidence between her situation and Jane Fairfax’s, Emma pays her a courtesy call. Emma
notes that when she calls this time, there is no flustered Miss Bates covering for Jane, only Jane’s warm
handshake and friendly greeting. Emma finds Mrs. Elton paying a call at the Bates’ house at the same time,
but she feels in a good enough mood not to let it bother her. From Mrs. Elton’s furtive behavior, Emma
gathers that she still thinks Jane’s engagement is a secret that must be kept from Emma.
Mr. Elton arrives to collect his wife and appears worn out. He says he has walked all the way to Donwell
Abbey for an appointment with Mr. Knightley, but did not find him home. Emma readies to leave, and Jane
walks her to the door.
The two share a private moment in which Jane attempts to apologize to Emma for her behavior. Emma says
her apology isn’t needed and that it is she who should be apologizing. They forgive each other at once. Emma
leaves with the regret that just as she is beginning to know Jane, she will be leaving to get married. Jane
Chapters 50-52 Summary and Analysis 27
assures her that she soon will be. Emma bids her friend good-bye, telling her friend that she loves to have
things decided and in the open.
Once Emma has cleared a path for truth, other truths are revealed. Though Frank’s letter offers excuses and
makes apologies, it sheds light on events that had been cloudy. Now she knows she was the cover for Frank’s
covert engagement to Jane. Her suspicions that Frank was toying with her are confirmed. She delights in
showing the letter to Mr. Knightley because she has acquired a taste for the truth and wants to share it with
him. Emma pays a call on Jane Fairfax to discover yet another truth. She is at first put off by Mrs. Elton, but
finding her so totally ridiculous in her affectations makes her smile where she once would have winced.
Emma lowered herself by sparring with Mrs. Elton. Now she can laugh her off and be free of pretension.
Her biggest revelation in these chapters is saved for her encounter with Jane. Jane is a truthful person whose
deception made her sickly, distant, and artificial. Now that the deception has been lifted, Emma sees a warm,
vibrant girl in the bloom of good health. Before Jane can overwhelm her with apologies, Emma does
something uncharacteristic. She drops her complicated armor of manners and says she and Jane should forgive
each other at once. Not only does she want to get at the truth, she wants to get there quickly.
Mr. Knightley’s openness and decisiveness have a liberating effect on Emma. She asks Jane outright when
she will be married and receives a simple answer. The two part friends, and Emma confides in Jane how much
she loves things decided and open. She may be revealing how much she loves Mr. Knightley-who is the
symbol of truth.
Chapters 53-55 Summary and Analysis
Mrs. Weston gives birth to a girl. Emma rejoices that she will have a girl child to educate. Mr. Knightley
posits that she will have a girl child to spoil, just as she did Emma, but allows that he has lost all his bitterness
toward spoiled children since finding happiness with Emma.
The two review highlights of the years leading up to their romance. Mr. Knightley reveals his long-standing
affection for her, despite her impertinence. Emma owns that she had been a willful girl with a saucy manner.
Emma silently reflects that she and Harriet do not correspond much. She feels the pain of concealing the true
state of their relationship to Mr. Knightley.
A letter from Isabella gives a good account of Harriet’s visit there. Emma learns it will be extended another
two weeks. Mr. Knightley hands Emma a letter from John Knightley, which makes no mention of Harriet and
considers his brother’s engagement good fortune-mostly on Emma’s side. Emma thinks her father will find
the advantage on Mr. Knightley’s side.
Emma prepares her father for the news of her engagement. She tells him the two plan to marry and
emphasizes the advantages. Mr. Woodhouse is shocked. He reminds Emma of her vow never to marry, but
Emma persuades him with smiles and assurance that nothing would change greatly in their lives if she marries
Mr. Knightley. Emma cannot reconcile Mr. Woodhouse to the marriage, but manages to plant the idea. Emma
depends on Mrs. Weston and her sister to help her persuade her father to consent.
Mrs. Weston is delighted to hear about the match, and Mr. Weston sees advantages on both sides and
congratulates himself that he foresaw it. Assuming the engagement a secret, he rides to town to tell Jane and
Miss Bates and spreads the word to other townspeople. Everyone approves except Mr. and Mrs. Elton, who
disparage the match. Mr. Elton hopes Emma’s pride will be contented at last. Mrs. Elton feels sorry for Mr.
Chapters 53-55 Summary and Analysis 28
Knightley and regrets that there will be no more parties and outings dedicated to her because Emma will be in
Mr. Knightley prepares Emma for some bad news. When he tells her the subject is Harriet Smith, she blushes.
He tells her that Robert Martin is going to marry Harriet. She asks how it could be possible, and Mr.
Knightley relates the story.
Mr. Knightley had sent Robert Martin to deliver some papers to his brother in London where Harriet was
staying. The two attended the same party, and Mr. Martin wasted no time asking her for her hand, and she
readily agreed. Mr. Knightley concludes the story by asking Emma to make allowances for Mr. Martin’s
station in life, saying he has an excellent character and is indispensable in business matters.
Emma says she doesn’t need to be reconciled to the match, but questions if Mr. Knightley heard Mr. Martin
correctly. He says that he is certain because he helped Mr. Martin work out the details of the hasty courtship.
Emma wishes them well and regrets her past foolishness. Mr. Knightley admits he made attempts to get to
know Harriet by dancing with her at the ball and walking with her at Donwell. He concluded that she would
make a good wife for Mr. Martin. He thinks she has Emma to thank for it. Emma submits to the praise she
knows she doesn’t deserve.
Her father comes in, and they go to Randalls where Frank and Jane, now openly engaged, pay a call. Frank
greets Emma warmly, though she experiences some shame in meeting him again. He confesses that he should
have told her of the secret and came very close once. He congratulates her on her own engagement. Emma
accuses him of being amused at having tricked them all. Frank says his deceit made him wretched. Emma says
their jibes at Jane make her ashamed. They agree to being alike.
Frank brings up more details of the charade he played with Emma, the unknowing participant. He makes sure
Jane hears him and enjoys her embarrassed reaction. Emma cannot understand why he keeps bringing up
painful memories. Emma concludes how fortunate she is to have a man of superior character like Mr.
Knightley. Emma’s lingering doubts about Harriet are soon put to rest when her friend makes an appearance
and tells her that she found Mr. Martin’s continuing affection for her irresistible. She has accepted his offer
with joy. Harriet next discovers that her real parents are tradespeople and pose no impediment to her marriage.
Emma accompanies her to church where she becomes the first of the three couples to marry.
Mr. Woodhouse is still miserable on the subject of Emma’s marriage. They manage to warm him to the idea,
but pull back from telling him that it must take place quickly, before John and Isabella go back to London.
Things seem at an impasse when Mrs. Weston’s poultry house is raided by an intruder. Mr. Woodhouse is so
frightened of being robbed himself, he suggests Mr. Knightley move in to protect them all and releases
Isabella and her husband to return home. A simple wedding takes place, much to Mrs. Elton’s displeasure.
All the other guests wish the lovers true happiness.
In these chapters, Emma’s happiness goes from bittersweet to complete. She cannot enjoy her engagement
without being haunted by Harriet and her father. She dreads telling both of them about it. She has broken a
trust with Harriet and a promise to her father. Though she lacks courage, she has the ability to persuade and
first goes to work on her father. Mr. Knightley comes to her rescue by offering to move to Hartfield so her
father won’t have to bear the shock of separation.
Just when Emma feels most deeply her obligation to tell Harriet the truth, Mr. Knightley again comes to her
rescue. He has been working behind the scenes to promote a match. He set the stage for Robert and Harriet to
meet, trusting the rest to fate—trust being a virtue Emma doesn’t possess. By being the guardian of their
union, Mr. Knightley, not Emma, becomes the true matchmaker. Emma is relieved of the burden of her father
Chapters 53-55 Summary and Analysis 29
From the incident with Jane and Frank she has learned the high cost of duplicity. She is forced to compare her
own foolishness with Frank’s and the comparison scalds her self-image. Being made to look like a fool hurts
her far worse than owning up to being one.
In comparing Frank’s immaturity and deceit to Mr. Knightley’s maturity and honesty, she recognizes her
great fortune in having the best man as hers. While she suspects she doesn’t deserve someone quite so good,
she is content that with her power of persistence combined with her newfound tenderness of heart, she can
demand no less.