Study Guide

Emma Respect and Reputation

By Jane Austen

Respect and Reputation

Chapter Three
Emma Woodhouse

Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. […]This was all that was generally known of her history (3.9)

Illegitimacy should cross Harriet off of any respectable person’s list of acquaintances. Emma’s either particularly sympathetic – or particularly pig-headed – in her determination to imagine a good family for Harriet.

Chapter Six

She was not much deceived as to her own skill either as an artist or a musician, but she was not unwilling to have others deceived, or sorry to know her reputation for accomplishment often higher than it deserved. (6.19)

Emma’s vanity never extends to self – deception, which our narrator extends as a sign of hope that she’ll change with time.

Chapter Fifteen
Mr. Elton

But, Miss Smith, indeed!—Oh! Miss Woodhouse! who can think of Miss Smith, when Miss Woodhouse is near! (15.32)

Mr. Elton taps into a common thread of Emma’s assessment of her own value.

Chapter Eighteen
Mr. Knightley

No, Emma, your amiable young man can be amiable only in French, not in English. He may be very 'aimable,' have very good manners, and be very agreeable; but he can have no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people: nothing really amiable about him." (18.28)

Mr. Knightley’s allusion to French standards of manners suggests his wisdom in recognizing different codes of conduct – and implies that he’s a true English gentleman.

Chapter Twenty-Three
Mr. Weston

What is right to be done cannot be done too soon. (23. 40)

Mr. Weston’s words, especially when directed at Frank, seem rather ironic. As we learn, too much of the plot turns on the deferral of doing (or thinking) the right things about people whose social positions don’t protect them from derision.

Chapter Twenty-Six
Emma Woodhouse

There is always a look of consciousness or bustle when people come in a way which they know to be beneath them. (26.10)

Emma is as critical of Knightley as she is of Frank. Any man of substance should, in her mind, carry himself as a man of substance – which includes driving to parties in a nice carriage.

Chapter Thirty-Two

[…] she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; […] that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good. (32.15)

The narrator’s evaluation of Mrs. Elton here seems to mirror Emma’s own – a parallel that helps us to establish Emma as the central character of the novel.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

[…] to be the favourite and intimate of a man who had so many intimates and confidantes, was not the very first distinction in the scale of vanity. […] General benevolence, but not general friendship, made a man what he ought to be. (38.3)

Social discrimination is as important as sociality. Mr. Weston’s willingness to be too hospitable creates an interesting counterpart to Mr. Woodhouse’s hesitation to ever leave his own home.

Chapter Forty-Two

"[…] if any difficulties should arise, my housekeeper is extremely clever."
"I will answer for it, that mine thinks herself full as clever, and would spurn any body's assistance." (42. 25-6)

Discussing servants’ feelings (or senses of worth) is a rare occurrence in a novel based on gentry (or upper-class people). In this passage, the two speakers use servants as ways to reiterate their own positions.

Chapter Forty-Eight

Birth, abilities, and education, had been equally marking one as an associate for her, to be received with gratitude; and the other—what was she? (48.17)

Austen fundamentally values social equality, as we see with Emma’s re-evaluation of her friendship with Harriet.

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