Study Guide

Emma Wealth

By Jane Austen


Chapter Five

I hope, with all my heart, the young man may be a Weston in merit, and a Churchill in fortune. (5.15)

Again, standards only mean something when a ready example is nearby. Merit and fortune become represented by Weston and Churchill, respectively.

Chapter Ten

[…] a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else. (10.18)

Jane Fairchild’s potential fate shows us how different a single woman who is not of good fortune can expect her life to be. Emma never really has to consider such sad possibilities.

[…] a very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross. (10.18)

Austen’s characters often take a very pragmatic view about finances. Without money, you can’t afford to be pleasurable. Therefore, any happy marriage has to take money into account.

Chapter Eighteen
Emma Woodhouse

[…] where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as unmanageable as great ones. (18.21)

Emma displays precocious knowledge of the dangers of wealth – even if she never seems to question the dangers of her own (similar) situation.

Chapter Twenty-Four

You were very popular before you came, because you were Mr. Weston's son—but lay out half a guinea at Ford's, and your popularity will stand upon your own virtues. (24.14)

Money makes the world go ‘round. And Highbury is definitely part of the real world.

Chapter Thirty-Two
Mrs. Elton

The very first subject after being seated was Maple Grove, "My brother Mr. Suckling's seat;"—a comparison of Hartfield to Maple Grove. The grounds of Hartfield were small, but neat and pretty; and the house was modern and well-built. Mrs. Elton seemed most favourably impressed by the size of the room, the entrance, and all that she could see or imagine. "Very like Maple Grove indeed!—She was quite struck by the likeness! (32.18)

Emma hates Mrs. Elton for comparing wealth so blatantly – but she frequently judges people in exactly the same way!

Blessed with so many resources within myself, the world was not necessary to me. I could do very well without it. (32.35)

Oh, the lies we tell to look good in front of our friends! Mrs. Elton has to convey the fact that she’s not settling for less than she could get when she married Mr. Elton, and declaring that she doesn’t need big rooms is one way to do it.

Even the most trivial financial exchanges open the possibility for larger financial worth.
The rich brother-in-law near Bristol was the pride of the alliance, and his place and his carriages were the pride of him. (32.16)

In Austen’s world, it’s impossible to be well-respected without all the trappings of well-to-do gentlefolk, but it’s also impossible if the trappings are all that you possess.

Chapter Thirty-Three
Emma Woodhouse

"I know how highly you think of Jane Fairfax," said Emma. Little Henry was in her thoughts, and a mixture of alarm and delicacy made her irresolute what else to say. (33.23)

Emma can’t allow herself to think of Jane as a rival, so she thinks of Mr. Knightley’s marriage as a dis-service to her nephew. Inheriting Donwell Abbey, not marrying Mr. Knightley, becomes the prime concern.

Chapter Fifty-One

It is remarkable, that Emma, in the many, very many, points of view in which she was now beginning to consider Donwell Abbey, was never struck with any sense of injury to her nephew Henry, whose rights as heir-expectant had formerly been so tenaciously regarded. (51.34)

Austen’s narrator points out the inconsistencies between this and Emma’s earlier positions. Perhaps she isn’t as materialistic as we might have thought!

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