Study Guide

Emma Love

By Jane Austen

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Chapter Nine
Emma Woodhouse

"There does seem to be a something in the air of Hartfield which gives love exactly the right direction, and sends it into the very channel where it ought to flow.
The course of true love never did run smooth—
A Hartfield edition of Shakespeare would have a long note on that passage." (9.25)

Emma’s reference to Shakespeare might suggest the level of involvement she has in manipulating her fellow characters (through her romantic matchmaking) as players on a stage.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Harriet’s love life – she sees herself as the director (or even the writer) of a play.
She had talked her into love; but, alas! she was not so easily to be talked out of it. (22.9)

Once the imagination is captured, it becomes hard to undo its effects. Harriet, for all her simplicity, finds it even harder to give up on an idea than Emma does.

Chapter Twenty-Five
Emma Woodhouse

[…] there was nothing to denote him unworthy of the distinguished honour which her imagination had given him; the honour, if not of being really in love with her, of being at least very near it, and saved only by her own indifference—(for still her resolution held of never marrying)—the honour, in short, of being marked out for her by all their joint acquaintance. (25.2)

Emma’s fantasies about Frank are all iterated in negative constructions; "nothing," "not," and "in-" pepper her conclusions. It’s a strange – and perhaps compromised – version of a love declaration.

Chapter Thirty-One
Emma Woodhouse

[…] they say every body is in love once in their lives, and I shall have been let off easily. (31.4)

Emma’s pragmatism in matters of the heart is in fine form here. Notice that she’s the one persuading herself to be in love. No one else is really involved.

I certainly will not persuade myself to feel more than I do. I am quite enough in love. I should be sorry to be more. (31.2)

Emma manages to talk herself out of love as soon as she imagines herself in it! Note, though, that even Emma is influenced by universal maxims about love. No one gets to be truly individual in an Austen novel.

Chapter Thirty-Seven
Emma Woodhouse

It was a clear thing he was less in love than he had been. Absence, with the conviction probably of her indifference, had produced this very natural and very desirable effect. (37.3)

For once, Emma’s confidence in her knowledge of people’s hearts pays off. It’s interesting that it’s only Frank whom she knows so well – they’re actually more alike than she might like to think.

Chapter Forty-One
Mr. Knightley

This gallant young man, who seemed to love without feeling, and to recommend himself without complaisance […] (41.19)

Knightley’s opinion of Frank speaks to the dangers of marrying for money: rich young men feel no need to act responsibly.

Chapter Forty-Eight
Emma Woodhouse

Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her happiness depended on being first with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and affection. (48.1)

Social hierarchies might seem shallow, but they give us a good grasp on how Austen articulates emotional connections, as well. Emma’s desire to be first in a party becomes the only way that she can express her love for Knightley.

Chapter Forty-Nine
Mr. Knightley

[…] this sweetest and best of all creatures, faultless in spite of all her faults […] (49.40)

This passage is perhaps the only real insight we get into Knightley’s love for Emma, which otherwise seems rather inexplicable at times!

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me. (49.36)

Knightley’s proposal is true to form. He promises nothing but honesty – which is something Emma is now more than willing to take.

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