Study Guide

Emma Home

By Jane Austen


Chapter One

Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful. (1.7)

Ironically, Emma never seems to value blood relations. Family is as often silly as it is truly comforting.

Chapter Two

It was now some time since Miss Taylor had begun to influence his schemes; but as it was not the tyrannic influence of youth on youth, it had not shaken his determination of never settling till he could purchase Randalls, and the sale of Randalls was long looked forward to; but he had gone steadily on, with these objects in view, till they were accomplished. He had made his fortune, bought his house, and obtained his wife; and was beginning a new period of existence, with every probability of greater happiness than in any yet passed through. (2.6)

Note how important obtaining an actual home (i.e., a property) is to Mr. Weston’s happiness. A happy home is a home that he owns himself.

Chapter Thirteen
Mr. Woodhouse

"It is the greatest absurdity [….] The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home—and the folly of people's not staying comfortably at home when they can!" (13.24)

A man’s home is his castle. Valuation of home (and domestic spaces) reaches its height with Mr. Woodhouse.

Chapter Eighteen

Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be. (18.15)

Austen’s narrator advocates for a sharp division between personal and public life.

Chapter Twenty-Six
Emma Woodhouse

Her objections to Mr. Knightley's marrying did not in the least subside. She could see nothing but evil in it. It would be a great disappointment to Mr. John Knightley; consequently to Isabella. A real injury to the children—a most mortifying change, and material loss to them all;—a very great deduction from her father's daily comfort—and, as to herself, she could not at all endure the idea of Jane Fairfax at Donwell Abbey. (26.88)

Emma’s objections to a potential match for Mr. Knightley are expressed in terms of how everybody in her social circle would feel about such a change, not just her own reaction.

Chapter Thirty-Two
Emma Woodhouse

She had a great idea that people who had extensive grounds themselves cared very little for the extensive grounds of any body else; but it was not worth while to attack an error so double-dyed […] (32.21)

Emma’s ironic observation can, of course, be taken two ways. It’s clear that Mrs. Elton cares nothing about anybody but herself (and her family’s land). It’s also somewhat true that everybody – even good people – is most attached to their own, familiar landscape.

Chapter Thirty-Four

Time will generally lessen the interest of every attachment not within the daily circle[…] (34.23)

Given that social circles in Highbury are so very small, it’s fitting that a character from London should utter this. Austen seems to be emphasizing, again, how a small group of people can seem to comprise an entire world.

Chapter Forty-Two

It was a sweet view—sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive. (42.39)

Again, Donwell is perfect not just because it’s beautiful. It’s also perfectly English.

It was just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was—and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding. (42.35)

Donwell Abbey is the absent center of this novel. It’s everything a country house should be – which makes it the ideal for anyone (including Emma).

She had an unhappy state of health in general for the child of such a man, for she hardly knew what indisposition was; and if he did not invent illnesses for her, she could make no figure in a message. (39.14)

Everyone creates their own delusions. If Emma imagines potential matches for everyone, then her father imagines illnesses for all of his loved ones.

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