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Emma

Emma

by Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse Timeline and Summary

  • We meet Emma in her home (Hartfield) thinking about the recent marriage of her governess, Mrs. Weston.
  • Emma consoles her father, but she thinks that she arranged the marriage – so she’s happy.
  • Knightley bursts Emma’s match-making bubble by suggesting that Mrs. Weston might have found her husband by herself – without Emma’s help.
  • Emma hosts a party for her father.
  • Mrs. Goddard brings Harriet along.
  • Emma promptly decides that Harriet will be her new "project."
  • Emma begins "improving" Harriet in earnest.
  • She convinces Harriet that Mr. Martin isn’t all that great.
  • Emma promptly decides to set Harriet up with Mr. Elton.
  • She decides to paint Harriet’s portrait and invite Mr. Elton over to view the work-in-progress (and, of course, its model).
  • Emma’s portrait of Harriet meets with universal acclaim – although Mr. Knightley’s convinced that its proportions are all wrong.
  • Emma doesn’t quite push Harriet into rejecting Mr. Martin’s proposal.
  • Emma and Mr. Knightley get into an argument about Harriet and Mr. Elton.
  • Emma coyly asks Mr. Elton to contribute a riddle to Harriet’s book.
  • Emma convinces Harriet to write the riddle in her book (omitting the scandalously personal last few lines, of course). Emma herself writes the riddle into the book.
  • Emma takes Harriet with her on a visit a poor family.
  • Emma declares that she never plans to marry.
  • They arrive at the poor family’s home. Emma deals with the poor honestly, kindly, and sympathetically.
  • Mr. Elton promptly starts to proposition Emma after the Westons’ party, using every bad cliché in the book.
  • Emma realizes how blind she’s been, and she vows never to match-make again.
  • Emma and Mr. Knightley get into a spat about Frank’s excuses for not coming to visit.
  • Emma decides to pay a long-overdue visit to the Bateses.
  • She hears Jane is coming to visit, and begins to suspect that Jane might have a history with Mr. Dixon.
  • The day after the party, Mr. Knightley comes over to Hartfield. He and Emma begin discussing Jane Fairfax: Mr. Knightley admires her perfection, Emma doesn’t.
  • Frank arrives; Emma immediately starts daydreaming about marrying him.
  • Emma finds out that Frank met Miss Jane Fairfax while he was in Weymouth.
  • Emma spends some time thinking about the relative virtues of Frank and Mr. Knightley.
  • Frank and Emma make fun of Jane at the Coles’ party.
  • Emma play piano; Frank sings with her.
  • Emma goes to the Bates house to hear Jane play.
  • Frank is there; they make fun of Jane some more.
  • Emma heads over to Randalls to help Frank plan a ball. They decide to hold it at the Crown.
  • Emma decides she’s in love with Frank. Sort of.
  • Emma pays Mrs. Elton a social visit.
  • As they talk, Emma realizes that she dislikes Mrs. Elton even more than she originally thought possible.
  • Interestingly, soon after this visit Mrs. Elton grows suddenly cold towards Emma.
  • Emma’s rather OK with that.
  • Emma slyly asks Mr. Knightley if he likes Jane – she’s relieved that he doesn’t.
  • Emma throws a dinner party for the Eltons.
  • After dinner, Emma notices with a bit of dismay that the conversation seems to break into two distinct parties.
  • Even her best efforts as a hostess don’t detach Mrs. Elton from Jane’s side.
  • Mr. John Knightley observes that Emma seems to have a much more active social calendar than she used to, he smilingly asks her if she’ll have any time at all for the boys.
  • Mr. Knightley interrupts to say that the boys can come over to his house whenever Emma wishes.
  • Indignant, Emma refuses to give up any time with her beloved nephews. (It seems that Emma, for all her faults, loves her family very, very much).
  • Knowing that Frank plans to come back to Highbury soon causes Emma to think seriously about her affection for Frank.
  • As soon as she starts thinking about it, though, she realizes that she doesn’t really have any affection for Frank.
  • Philosophically, Emma determines that absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. In fact, absence is the best cure for half-formed loves. Like hers and Frank’s.
  • The Westons have their ball; Emma arrives early.
  • So does everyone else.
  • Emma sarcastically remarks that Frank should be grateful for Mrs. Elton’s close friendship with Jane. Frank seems startled and gasps for a bit.
  • Emma can’t understand his response, but she finally decides that he was just laughing with her.
  • Dancing is the main attraction of any ball. Frank asks Emma to be his partner for the first dances (which Mrs. Elton takes as a slight).
  • As the music begins, Emma catches sight of Mr. Elton prowling on the boundaries of the room.
  • She watches as he walks up to Mrs. Weston and asks her to dance.
  • Mrs. Weston suggests Harriet, instead. Mr. E turns her down.
  • Emma and Harriet overhear all of this conversation. Emma watches in dismay as Mrs. Elton exchanges smug looks with her husband.
  • Luckily, she sees Mr. Knightley ask Harriet to dance.
  • Emma, watching the whole encounter, casts Mr. Knightley many grateful looks.
  • She also notices that he’s a pretty fine dancer.
  • Later, during dinner, Mr. Knightley catches up with Emma and asks her why the Eltons seemed so willing to consciously hurt Harriet. As he observes, it seems to have something to do with Emma.
  • Mr. Knightley also tells Emma that he was astonished to find out how lovely and simple Harriet actually is.
  • The music begins again. Looking around, Mr. Knightley asks Emma who she plans to dance with.
  • She declares that she intends to dance with him.
  • As they begin to dance, Emma observes that she and Mr. Knightley aren’t really like a brother and sister.
  • As Emma thinks over the ball the next day, she’s satisfied to remember that Mr. Knightley shares her opinion about the Eltons.
  • Knightley is not quarrelling with her, and Frank Churchill seems to be staying away from Hartfield.
  • Emma settles down to play with her nephews for the morning.
  • Before long, however, Frank and a very weak Harriet come in the gate.
  • Emma rushes out to meet them. Harriet tells her about the gypsy attack.
  • Harriet shows up at Emma’s house with a strange parcel under her arm.
  • She explains that she’s ready to give up on Mr. Elton now (only a few months after he got married)!
  • Emma laughs at Harriet’s box of trinkets – but she’s glad Harriet is moving on.
  • After the box burns, Harriet confesses that she’s beginning to fall in love again.
  • Surprised and rather relieved, Emma sits down to listen.
  • Harriet humbly asks Emma if she thinks that Harriet should even think about the new man she admires.
  • Determined not to meddle in any more love affairs, Emma asks Harriet never to reveal her crush’s name.
  • (Of course, she’s absolutely sure that it’s Frank. After all, didn’t he save her from the gypsies?)
  • Emma couldn’t be happier. Harriet and Frank would be perfect together.
  • She resolves to wish them well. Beyond that, however, she’s not going to do anything to advance their love. She’s had enough matchmaking for now.
  • Saying enough to make Harriet happy, however, Emma manages to convince her that it’s OK for her to think about (and even love) a man who outranks her socially.
  • At the Box Hill party, Emma and Frank start flirting outrageously with each other. Sure, she knows that everybody else is listening – and that it’s ridiculously inappropriate – but she’s in a strangely elated mood.
  • Frank, too, seems strangely driven to wild moods. He’s overly bright and far, far too attentive to Emma.
  • The two propose a game: each of the party will say one very witty thing – or two sort of witty things – or three boring things. Emma will judge who wins.
  • Miss Bates laughs and observes that she won’t have to worry, then – at the very least, she can come up with three dull things.
  • Emma, high on her own energy, replies that Miss Bates’ problem will be limiting herself to only three boring things.
  • There’s a dreadful pause.
  • Miss Bates slowly figures out what Emma meant.
  • She’s very humble, so she just turns to Mr. Knightley and says that she must have been really boring for Emma to have said something so awful to an old friend.
  • Mr. Weston comes up with a clever pun on Emma’s name. The company laughs.
  • Mr. Knightley declares that if this is to be the focus of the game, he won’t participate. (In other words, he’s not too fond of an Emma love-fest.)
  • As they’re about to leave, Mr. Knightley pulls Emma aside.
  • He chastises her for speaking so cruelly to Miss Bates. Although Emma is immediately ashamed and sorry, she pretends not to understand him.
  • Mr. Knightley explains why he’s so upset: Miss Bates is poor, and she’s seen her station in society sink as her money has dwindled.
  • Deeply ashamed, Emma turns her face away – and so she misses the chance to tell Mr. Knightley how sorry she truly is.
  • Emma cries all the way home.
  • Making fun of Miss Bates is different than all other times we’ve read about Emma’s mistakes: when she wakes up in the morning, Emma still feels rotten.
  • She wishes, above all, that she could tell Mr. Knightley how sorry she feels.
  • Emma leaves early in the morning to call on Miss Bates. She can’t really apologize, but at least she can show that she’s sorry!
  • When she gets to the Bates house, the servant lets her in. There’s a strange scramble upstairs, though…almost as if people are running away.
  • As it turns out, people were running away. Jane and Miss Bates, to be precise.
  • Feeling even more penitent than before, Emma sits down to talk to Mrs. Bates. Eventually Miss Bates comes out of a back room, apologizing that Jane is "ill."
  • Miss Bates, quick to forgive, begins chatting with Emma about Highbury gossip.
  • Most surprisingly, she tells Emma that Jane has finally accepted the governess position that Mrs. Elton found (and shoved down her throat….)
  • Emma walks slowly home, thinking about Jane’s change in fortunes.
  • She’s surprised to find Mr. Knightley at home when she arrives. He’s sitting beside Harriet.
  • He only meant to stay five minutes – but he’s been sitting there for 30.
  • Emma arrives in time to hear her father discussing her visit to the Bates house with Mr. Knightley.
  • As he looks at her approvingly, Emma blushes. She’s glad that she seems to have done exactly the right thing for once.
  • Emma decides that there’s not much she can do immediately to help forward Harriet’s love.
  • More pressingly, Jane Fairfax has taken very ill.
  • Determined to be more friendly, Emma offers to take Jane on a drive. She’s rejected.
  • She sends some arrowroot to the house (a medicinal root). It’s sent back.
  • Dejected, Emma realizes that Jane doesn’t want her help at all.
  • Surprised? Well, not everything works out as Emma plans it.
  • As she’s beginning to figure out.
  • Mr. Weston comes to Hartfield just to ask Emma to come back with him to Randalls. Mrs. Weston has to talk to her – alone.
  • Surprised and frightened, Emma joins him immediately.
  • Mr. Weston’s not very good at keeping secrets. He’s upset, and he tries to calm Emma down by telling her that it might not be as bad as he thinks it is.
  • Sure that something happened to her sister’s family, Emma begs him to tell her immediately.
  • Mr. Weston assures her that nothing is wrong with the Knightleys. Somewhat reassured, Emma hurries along.
  • When they get to Randalls, Mrs. Weston takes Emma by the hand and tells her that Frank is engaged – to Jane Fairfax.
  • Mrs. Weston, terrified that Emma’s heart is broken, tries to console her.
  • It takes a few tries – and a lot of smiles – before Emma can convince the Westons that, by a strange fluke, she’s no longer in love with Frank.
  • Nonetheless, Emma condemns the underhanded way Frank has conducted his business ever since he arrived in Highbury (and we all know she’s thinking of the things she’s said, as well!)
  • Mrs. Weston assures Emma that Frank has suffered greatly in the past few months – which isn’t quite easy to believe, is it?
  • Emma wonders aloud if Frank’s concealment led to unjust or even unkind things being said about Jane.
  • Immediately concerned about Harriet – who’s about to be snubbed for the second time – Emma hurries home.
  • As she walks, she thinks about all the things that she could have done differently had she known about the engagement. For one thing, she might have liked Jane much more.
  • It now occurs to her that all of her attempts to befriend Jane when she was ill were probably arrows into Jane’s heart. Just think about how badly Frank ignored her at Box Hill – and how much he flirted with Emma!
  • Emma regrets that Mr. Weston swore her to secrecy about the engagement.
  • Surprisingly, Emma meets Harriet at the gate of Hartfield – and Harriet has already heard all about the engagement.
  • Harriet relates the news to Emma with apparent joy.
  • Emma’s totally confused. Wasn’t Harriet madly in love with Frank? How can she be so calm about the utter failure of her plans – again?
  • Emma asks Harriet why she’s not upset.
  • Harriet is confused (big surprise).
  • She explains to Emma that the man she loves – the man she agreed never to name – is so totally completely better than Frank that she never even thought about Frank. Not for a second.
  • Emma feels the ground drop from under her. Could Harriet mean Mr. Knightley?
  • Yup. As it turns out, Harriet loves Mr. Knightley. And, to make matters worse, she thinks that Emma supports her love.
  • Emma suddenly can’t hear Harriet talking – her mind is moving too fast.
  • In a flash, Emma realizes that Harriet can’t love Mr. Knightley.
  • SHE loves him!
  • Emma slowly realizes that there’s another problem: what if Mr. Knightley loves Harriet?
  • Harriet explains why she thinks Mr. Knightley might like her.
  • As Emma listens, her heart sinks. Maybe Mr. Knightley does like Harriet.
  • Emma shudders at the thought.
  • Confused, Emma tells Harriet to leave.
  • Left alone with her thoughts, Emma realizes that she’s always loved Mr. Knightley.
  • She finally recognizes that it was pretty vain to assume that she could understand everyone else’s loves – when really, she had no idea what her own feelings were!
  • Emma spends a good deal more time (and a good portion of this chapter) re-thinking everything that has happened in the past few months.
  • Now that she might lose Mr. Knightley, Emma understands how much he means to her.
  • It’s unthinkable that he might not have her first in his affections, as he has for so long!
  • Emma regrets her actions for the past few months all over again.
  • Honestly, the only thing separating Emma’s fate from Jane’s is money. Emma spends some time thinking about how horrible Jane’s position must have been.
  • Alone again, Emma thinks about how everyone will soon leave her.
  • For the first time, we see Emma regretting the fact that she’s left alone with a crotchety father.
  • She can see her future mapped out for her. Day after day after day exactly the same – alone.
  • Emma wanders in the garden, thinking about her sad, sad future.
  • Suddenly, Mr. Knightley appears, returned from London.
  • He’s heard about Jane and Frank’s marriage. Assuming that Emma still loves Frank, he gently begins to console her.
  • It takes awhile for Emma to figure out what’s happening, but when she catches on, she corrects him.
  • Mr. Knightley declares that he envies Frank – and he asks Emma if she wants to know why.
  • Convinced that Mr. Knightley is about to reveal his feelings for Harriet, Emma tries to shut him up.
  • Emma immediately feels sorry.
  • She asks Mr. Knightley – as a friend – to tell her what he meant.
  • Mr. Knightley confesses that he loves Emma. He just wants to know that he could someday have the chance to make her love him.
  • Love birds start singing. Bands start playing.
  • Not really. But Emma’s pretty happy. She tells Mr. Knightley that she loves him.
  • Emma writes a letter to Harriet, explaining all that’s happened.
  • That’s enough to ruin her day, but, luckily, Mr. Knightley shows up just as she’s getting really sad.
  • They discuss whether they can get married without making Emma’s father miserable.
  • Emma already has a plan.
  • If they wait to get married until after Mr. Woodhouse dies, Emma argues, then he’ll never be unhappy.
  • Luckily, Mr. Knightley's got an alternate solution.
  • Instead of Emma moving to Donwell Abbey, Mr. Knightley proposes that he should move into Hartfield. That way, Mr. Woodhouse never has to leave his own home.
  • Astonished at Mr. Knightley’s liberality, Emma immediately agrees to think it over. In fact, she pretty much agrees to agree.
  • Although Emma’s a bit unsettled by the thought of hurting Harriet, she writes to her immediately.
  • In the letter, she offers to send Harriet to London to stay with Isabella.
  • With Harriet gone, Emma can finally enjoy spending time with Mr. Knightley without feeling guilty.
  • In her spare time, Emma pays a visit to Jane and the Bateses.
  • As she walks up to the door, Emma remembers the horrible awkwardness of her last visit.
  • Suddenly shy, she waits at the bottom of the stairs as the maid announces her name.
  • This time, however, Jane comes running down to greet her.
  • Emma congratulates Jane on her engagement.
  • They both apologize profusely and hug each other.
  • Emma and Jane part as friends.
  • Emma is delighted at the news of the Westons’ baby, Anna.
  • Mr. Knightley comes in one day with news: Harriet is engaged.
  • To Robert Martin.
  • Emma’s surprised – but not nearly as unhappy as Mr. Knightley expected. Apparently she’s learned some lessons.
  • Overjoyed, Emma travels to the Westons’ to share the news.
  • Mrs. Weston sits with her new baby – and Frank and Jane are walking outside.
  • Emma’s still a bit awkward about meeting Frank. They sit in silence for awhile, and Emma grows convinced that they’ll never be friends again.
  • Soon, however, the ice breaks. Emma and Frank laugh over the mistakes of the past months.
  • Emma and Mr. Knightley had agreed not to get married until Mr. John Knightley and Isabella can come to the wedding (and be with Mr. Woodhouse for the honeymoon).
  • Unfortunately, Mr. Woodhouse believes that the marriage won’t occur for at least another year or two (or three). Why rush things?
  • Luckily, a minor disaster occurs.
  • Someone robs Mrs. Weston’s henhouse.
  • Mr. Woodhouse, petrified that his home will soon be vandalized, urges Emma to marry at once.
  • And so she does.
  • They have a lovely, simple wedding.

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