Study Guide

Emma

Emma Summary

Emma Woodhouse has the world at her fingertips. She’s young, pretty, and smart; she also happens to be the reigning queen of her village’s social scene. Emma lives in Highbury, a small town about sixteen miles outside of London, with her aging father. Mr. Woodhouse loves Emma, but he’s utterly unable to offer her any guidance – which is perhaps why Emma doesn’t seem to have any sense of her own limitations. Life seems pretty sweet – if a bit boring – and so Emma decides to spice things up by taking on a protégé, Harriet Smith. Even though Emma’s determined never to marry herself, she immediately decides to find Harriet a husband.

Determined to make Harriet into a gentlewoman, Emma sets out to refine Harriet’s tastes – especially in men. She convinces Harriet to dump Robert Martin, the young farmer who likes her, and set her sights on the town’s clergyman, Mr. Elton. Unfortunately, Mr. Elton turns out to be in love with Emma – or at least with Emma’s money. After the Mr. Elton debacle, Emma thinks that she’s learned her lessons in matchmaking. Luckily for us (if not for Harriet), she hasn’t.

When the dashing Frank Churchill comes to town, Emma tries very hard to fall in love with him herself. She can’t seem to fall head over heels for him, but she does manage to make a good deal of mischief by flirting with him in front of Jane Fairfax, a young woman who recently returned to Highbury to live with her aunts. Meanwhile, Emma decides that Frank might just be the perfect new man for Harriet.

Emma’s exploits are watched – and commented upon – by her good friend, Mr. Knightley. Although Emma frequently ignores his advice, she cherishes his good opinion. When Mr. Knightley accuses her of belittling her poor neighbors, Emma begins to reflect upon her mistakes and even starts to change her ways.

Unfortunately, Harriet confesses that she loves Mr. Knightley, not Frank. All of a sudden, Emma’s plans crumble. She realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley too. Convinced that Mr. Knightley might be interested in Harriet, despite the fact that he practically lives with the Woodhouses, Emma crushes Mr. Knightley’s attempts to propose to her. Eventually all romantic muddles are cleared: Emma marries Mr. Knightley, and Harriet marries her farmer, Robert Martin.

Emma’s story is surrounded by side-narratives of life in Highbury, including the romance of Frank and Jane Fairfax, the marriage of Emma’s former governess, Mrs. Weston, and the escapades of the social climbers, Mr. and Mrs. Elton.

  • Chapter One

    • Let’s start off by establishing some facts: at almost twenty-one years old, Emma Woodhouse is pretty perfect. She’s pretty, rich, and the most popular girl in town. (Not bad, huh?)
    • Emma lives with her father in the largest house in town. Noticing a pattern here?
    • We meet Emma in her home (Hartfield) thinking about the recent marriage of her governess, Mrs. Weston.
    • It’s lonely without her, sure, but at least Emma has the comfort of knowing that she arranged her friend’s marriage. We could think of Emma as Mother Teresa and Cupid all rolled into one – if only because that’s how she thinks of herself.
    • Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, isn’t nearly as happy about the new arrangement.
    • In his mind, marriage is a terrible institution – mostly because it means that people no longer revolve around his will. (Get used to his complaining. We’ll return to it again and again. And again.)
    • As Emma consoles her father (and congratulates herself), their neighbor Mr. Knightley enters.
    • Knightley’s an old friend, and his brother has married Emma’s sister (and if you think that this sounds incestuous, just wait! It only gets better…).
    • Knightley bursts Emma’s match-making bubble by suggesting that Mrs. Weston might have found her husband by herself – without Emma’s help.
    • Luckily for our story, Emma isn’t easily convinced.
  • Chapter Two

    • We meet Mr. Weston, the former colonel who just stole Mrs. Weston from the Woodhouses (if you ask Emma’s father, that is).
    • Weston’s an all-around good guy – a great soldier, a gentleman, and a property owner. Let us emphasize that again: he’s a good guy. Got it?
    • As if that weren’t enough, we also meet (or at least hear of) Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill. Why isn’t he Frank Weston? That’s a good question. More on that later….
    • Frank’s the son of Mr. Weston’s first marriage. Frank’s been raised by a wealthy aunt, which means that Mr. Weston rarely sees him.
    • Rumor has it that Frank might be returning to pay a wedding visit, however, which has the whole town a-flutter.
    • Our narrator takes us back to the scene of the wedding, where Mr. Woodhouse is desperately trying to convince the entire wedding party that cake is bad for the health.
    • He enlists the expert opinion of his doctor, Mr. Perry. (We recommend checking out this scene – it’s a guaranteed chuckle.)
  • Chapter Three

    • The chapter in which we learn of the social life of the Woodhouses: even though Mr. Woodhouse is about as persnickety as it gets, he still throws regular dinner and card parties – which Emma, of course, arranges.
    • For a small town, Highbury has a pretty elaborate set of social hierarchies, and we learn all about it here.
    • Emma and her father are A-listers, of course, and so are the Westons and Mr. Elton, the local clergyman (he’s also young and handsome, which doesn’t hurt his social status at all).
    • Of course, no town is complete without its B-listers (read: spinsters and working women). Highbury has the Bateses (Mrs. Bates and her daughter). Don’t worry about getting them mixed up: they’re supposed to be pretty interchangeable at first.
    • The Bateses always come to the Woodhouses’ parties, if only because Miss Bates loves to gossip, which makes her a perfect companion for Mr. Woodhouse.
    • At this particular party, Mrs. Goddard, the head of a local girl’s school, asks to present her star pupil to Emma.
    • Harriet Smith is seventeen. She’s pretty and almost-smart – which makes her a perfect sidekick.
    • No one knows who Harriet’s parents are, although the narrator throws in an ironic observation that she must be somebody’s daughter.
    • Emma promptly decides that Harriet will be her new "project."
    • After all, a girl’s got to have someone to help – and after Emma’s through, she’s sure that Harriet will be fit for "good society"!
  • Chapter Four

    • Emma begins "improving" Harriet in earnest.
    • As Emma decides, Harriet is the perfect friend – she needs all the help she can get.
    • Case-in-point: Harriet’s thrilled about her recent visit to a friend’s farm, where she meets the stable farmer, Mr. Martin. (C’mon, what girl wouldn’t want to have a cow named after her?)
    • Emma, of course, is not so thrilled to hear about her friend’s exploits.
    • Emma and Harriet meet Mr. Martin on the road.
    • He’s actually pretty cute, which worries Emma: what’s the point of improving Harriet if she’s going to be a farmer’s wife?
    • Deciding to do some damage control, Emma convinces Harriet that Mr. Martin isn’t half as good a gentleman as, say, Mr. Knightley or Mr. Elton.
    • Emma promptly decides to set Harriet up with Mr. Elton. Remember him? He’s cute – for a minister – and he’s got a nice pad with a great view of the market street.
  • Chapter Five

    • Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston get together to talk about Emma. Get used to this – talking about Emma is one of the town’s favorite pastimes.
    • Knightley’s convinced that Harriet is bad for Emma. After all, how many more ego boosts does Emma actually need?
    • Begin the Emma love-fest: Knightley and Mrs. Weston hash over how pretty and lovable Emma is.
    • Despite this, Knightley’s got a few "elder brother-ly" critiques.
    • For one thing, Emma’s never finished anything she’s started.
    • For another, she needs a good ol’ fashioned heartbreak to set her in her place.
    • Mrs. Weston tells Mr. Knightley that she’s secretly hoping Frank will sweep into town – and sweep Emma off her feet.
    • Mr. Knightley promises not to upset Emma’s sister by telling her about Emma’s improper friendship.
  • Chapter Six

    • How to win Mr. Elton’s heart for Harriet? Not to worry – Emma’s got a plan.
    • She decides to paint Harriet’s portrait and invite Mr. Elton over to view the work-in-progress (and, of course, its model).
    • Emma pulls out her oeuvre (her entire collection of artwork).
    • She’s never finished a piece in her life, but everyone’s convinced that they’d be masterpieces if they were ever completed.
    • She does have a pretty good portrait of her brother-in-law. It’s a bit out of proportion, but otherwise it’s great.
    • Harriet and Mr. Elton admire all of Emma’s works.
    • Over and over and over again.
    • Now that we come to it, Mr. Elton is – well – a bit too enthusiastic about anything and everything that Emma says and does. Sense any complications to Emma’s plans? Keep reading…
    • Emma’s portrait of Harriet meets with universal acclaim – although Mr. Knightley’s convinced that its proportions are all wrong. Typical, hm?
    • The portrait needs a frame, but luckily Mr. Elton promptly volunteers to take it to London.
    • By the time Emma’s done giving the portrait to Mr. Elton, she’s convinced that he’s a fool – but at least he’s a fool that’s in love with Harriet.
    • Want to know how she knows?
    • Well, why else would he ride all the way to London just to frame a portrait?
    • London’s a long way away (sixteen whole miles, in fact). That’s nothing to sneeze at. Especially when traveling by horseback is the fastest way to get around.
  • Chapter Seven

    • Harriet receives a love letter from our farmer-friend, Mr. Martin.
    • Emma, of course, is outraged on her friend’s behalf. How could Mr. Martin dream of lowering Harriet to his social station?
    • Unable to decide how to respond to the letter, Harriet turns to Emma for advice.
    • After reading Mr. Martin’s letter, Emma is secretly troubled – it sure doesn’t sound like a farmer’s letter. It’s too well-written.
    • Emma wonders if Mr. Martin is actually more of a gentleman than she’d thought.
    • She decides to ignore her better instincts, however. After all, a farmer is a farmer – at the end of the day, he still smells like the cows.
    • Emma refuses to sway Harriet’s decision (although she’s secretly determined to stop Harriet from making the biggest mistake of her life).
    • Hilarity ensues.
    • Harriet wants to like Mr. Martin’s letter.
    • Emma doesn’t say anything.
    • Harriet thinks Mr. Martin’s letter might be too short. That’s how you judge the quality of a letter, right?
    • Emma secretly cringes at Harriet’s standards, but she senses that Harriet might be moving in the right direction.
    • Wait – didn’t we say that Emma wasn’t going to push Harriet into anything? Well, yes.
    • But we weren’t quite telling the truth. That’s because Emma wasn’t quite truthful with herself.
    • Emma doesn’t quite push Harriet into rejecting Mr. Martin. (OK, that’s not quite true. But let’s go with it for now.)
    • Although she seems faintly troubled at the thought of hurting Mr. Martin, Harriet decides she’d far rather refuse him than disagree with her friend.
    • After the letter is written, Emma pats Harriet on the head (not literally, but you get the picture).
    • Recognizing that Harriet seems glum, Emma attempts to cheer her up by talking about the fabulous Mr. Elton.
    • She’s convinced that Mr. Elton has taken Harriet’s portrait in order to show it to his family – and she soon convinces Harriet, as well.
  • Chapter Eight

    • Harriet basically moves into Hartfield.
    • She even gets her own bedroom in Hartfield, for the days when she doesn’t manage to make it back to her school.
    • In case we haven’t mentioned it, education doesn’t seem to be Harriet’s biggest priority.
    • You probably figured that out on your own, huh?
    • Mr. Knightley comes to Hartfield when Harriet is out, excited to tell Emma that a handsome, responsible, upstanding man is interested in Harriet.
    • (Any guesses who it might be?) Yup – Mr. Martin.
    • Emma loves a good laugh – especially at Mr. Knightley’s expense.
    • She’s delighted to tell him that Mr. Martin has already proposed to Harriet and been rejected like the dirty farmer that he is.
    • Outraged at Harriet’s stupidity, Mr. Knightley argues with Emma. A huge spat ensues.
    • Mr. Knightley points out that Mr. Martin may be a nobody, but Harriet is a Nobody (capital N). She’s got no fortune, no father, and no future. (Not to mention the fact that she’s – well – not the brightest crayon in the box.)
    • Emma gets some great points in about women’s roles in marriage, but she can’t help feeling crummy about Knightley’s disapproval. Conscience, anyone?
    • Mr. Knightley scoffs when Emma says that Harriet is setting her sights on Mr. Elton.
    • As Knightley notes, Elton is too much of a money-grubber to ever marry a Nobody.
    • Mr. Knightley storms off, leaving a very uneasy Emma alone.
    • Luckily, Harriet soon arrives with fourth-hand news of Mr. Elton. Gossip does travel fast in a small town!
  • Chapter Nine

    • Emma’s plans to make Harriet smarter flop – but they do manage to make lots and lots of self-help lists!
    • Instead of reading the classics, the two decide to make a riddle-book. OK, OK, it sounds geeky – but it was pretty hot in the nineteenth century. Think of it as a mix CD – or an iPod "Greatest Hits" list.
    • They spend several days collecting riddles from everyone they know.
    • Emma coyly asks Mr. Elton to contribute a riddle to Harriet’s book.
    • Mr. Elton declines – but shows up the next morning with a riddle written by "a friend." We’ve heard that one before.
    • The answer to Mr. Elton’s riddle is "courtship." That’s a really old word for dating.
    • Of course, Emma has to explain this to Harriet. Of course. After she catches on, however, Harriet’s pretty excited.
    • 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.
    • Mr. Woodhouse brings news that Emma’s sister, Isabella, and her husband, Mr. John Knightley, are coming to Hartfield for a visit.
    • He’s convinced that his poor, poor daughter (who has been stolen away by Mr. John Knightley) will be delighted to be back at home.
    • He also remembers one riddle.
    • OK, he doesn’t remember all of it. But there’s this one line that stays in his mind about "Kitty, a fair but frozen maid…"
    • Emma gently tells him that she’s already found that riddle in a book of famous quotations.
    • As we might have mentioned, Mr. Woodhouse isn’t the most original of men.
    • Mr. Elton comes to visit Hartfield and seems confused by Emma’s references to Harriet and her riddle collection. The plot thickens…
  • Chapter Ten

    • Emma takes Harriet with her on a visit a poor family. They pause to swoon over Mr. Elton’s house.
    • After congratulating Harriet on her future prospects, Emma declares that she never plans to marry.
    • After all, she’s got the best house in town already – what more could she want? It’s not like she’ll ever fall in love!
    • Harriet is aghast at Emma’s declaration.
    • Emma, an old maid? Horror of horrors!! In twenty years, she’ll be like Miss Bates!
    • Emma explains that the difference between Miss Bates and herself is (not to put too fine a point on it) money. Cash makes just about anything possible – even being an old maid. (We know, we know, the heroine of a romance has to get married...right?)
    • They arrive at the poor family’s home. Emma deals with the poor honestly, kindly, and sympathetically.
    • She doesn’t even expect them to do more for themselves than they can actually do. She just helps where she’s needed.
    • Strange? Well, not really. Emma seems to have a knack for dealing with people who are worse off than she is.
    • Harriet stands around for awhile.
    • On the way home, Emma and Harriet run into Mr. Elton.
    • Emma fakes an untied shoe to let Harriet have Mr. Elton all to herself – but they only end up talking about what Mr. Elton had for dinner. He’s a fascinating guy.
    • Desperate to make something happen, Emma breaks her shoelace.
    • Unable to walk any further, she begs Mr. Elton to take them to his house. He’s delighted to agree.
    • Harriet and Emma trek to Mr. Elton’s house.
    • Emma tries to leave Harriet alone with Mr. Elton, but not much happens.
    • Emma’s a bit frustrated – Harriet doesn’t seem to be making the most of her opportunities.
  • Chapter Eleven

    • Emma’s sister and her husband (Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley, if we’re being particular) arrive from London with several baby Knightleys in tow.
    • Our narrator presents John Knightley as a smart (if cold) gentleman and Isabella as a warm (if stupid) wife.
    • Luckily, they’re married. It all evens out.
    • In case we haven’t mentioned it, Mr. Woodhouse is something of a sympathetic hypochondriac – he’s convinced that Isabella and the children must all be getting ill after their journey.
    • Isabella, a bit of a hypochondriac herself, agrees.
    • Mr. Woodhouse and Isabella spend quite a bit of time talking about their favorite doctors. It’s fascinating, really. Check it out.
    • Isabella mentions her doctor, which makes Mr. Woodhouse rather nervous.
    • After all, everyone knows that Mr. Perry is the best – and only – good doctor in England.
    • Isabella disagrees.
    • Mr. John Knightley starts to point out how silly the entire conversation is.
    • Emma has to play some quick damage control to avert family feuds.
    • The whole family discusses the mysterious Frank Churchill (who has yet to appear in Highbury).
  • Chapter Twelve

    • Emma’s a bit worried about Mr. Knightley coming over for dinner – they haven’t spoken since their fight four chapters ago.
    • Luckily, she’s holding a baby when Mr. Knightley enters. Everybody loves babies.
    • Emma and Mr. Knightley make up over their niece (although they each secretly think that they’re right about Harriet).
    • Isabella and her father enter into a long conversation about doctors and gruel. It’s about as exciting as doctors and gruel can be.
    • Mr. John Knightley can occasionally throw out some zingers – which means that Emma and Mr. Knightley are on damage control again all night!
    • Mr. Knightley and Mr. John Knightley get a little brother bonding time in (you know, cattle, fence repairs…the usual).
    • They get along really well.
  • Chapter Thirteen

    • The Westons host a Christmas Eve dinner to which all our friends are invited (even Mr. Woodhouse manages to leave the house for once).
    • Harriet, unfortunately, comes down with a cold at the last minute and can’t make it.
    • The afternoon of the party, Emma and Mr. John Knightley run into Mr. Elton on the road.
    • Emma tries to persuade Mr. Elton to stay home.
    • After all, with Harriet gone, why could he ever want to eat out?
    • Strangely enough, he still seems excited to be going.
    • Mr. John Knightley warns Emma that Mr. Elton seems to be crushing on her.
    • Never fear – our heroine sees John as the ignorant man that he is. Luckily for us, Emma knows better.
    • Snowclouds darken the horizon as they head towards the party. (Can anyone sense a storm brewing?)
  • Chapter Fourteen

    • Snow starts to fall as they all drive to the Westons’.
    • At the party, Mr. Elton seems strangely excited (and drunk). But let’s stick with excited for now…
    • As cocktail conversation commences, everybody seems to be talking about Frank Churchill. Remember him? He’s Mr. Weston’s son.
    • Emma indulges in a few fantasies about Frank (don’t worry, they’re all G-rated).
    • Apparently Frank’s visit has been postponed (again). By this time, you could think of him as the invisible man.
    • Mr. Weston blames it all on Frank’s evil, evil aunt.
    • Mrs. Weston’s not so sure.
    • Emma declares that Frank has no excuse for ditching his new step-mother like this (keep this in mind for later!)
    • Mrs. Weston silently agrees.
  • Chapter Fifteen

    • After dinner, Mr. Woodhouse is itching to get home – it’s all Emma can do to keep him in his seat.
    • The gentlemen leave to smoke on their own while the women wait in the parlor (no one ever said the nineteenth century was fair).
    • Mr. Elton bursts back into the parlor and cozies up to Emma and Mrs. Weston in a very, very strange manner.
    • He sits on a loveseat with them and starts to tease Emma. It’s all very improper.
    • He even wants Emma to promise him to take care of herself. (Insert sappy '80s love song here.)
    • Emma, of course, decides to ignore him.
    • It’s snowing! Mr. Woodhouse panics and demands to go home immediately.
    • In the bustle to leave, Emma somehow manages to get stuck in a carriage alone.
    • With Mr. Elton.
    • In case we forgot to mention it, a single girl alone with a single guy is a HUGE no-no.
    • Here’s why: Mr. Elton promptly starts to proposition Emma, using every bad cliché in the book.
    • Astonished and angry, Emma accuses him of falsely leading Harriet on.
    • Mr. Elton, astonished and angry in turn, declares that he would never think of slumming so low. He never liked Harriet – only Emma (and, of course, Emma’s cash. But let’s ignore that for now).
    • Awkward silence. Awkward silence.
    • The carriage drops Mr. Elton off, leaving Emma alone with her thoughts.
  • Chapter Sixteen

    • In which Emma beats herself up for being so, so wrong.
    • How could she have imagined such an unsuitable match for Harriet?
    • And how could she have missed the fact that Mr. Elton wanted her, not her friend?
    • Now that Emma realizes how blind she’s been, she vows never to match-make again.
    • Of course, she could set Harriet up with that new lawyer-fellow in town…
    • But that would be breaking her vow. She goes to bed miserable…
    • …and wakes up pretty much OK.
    • Austen’s narrator writes some funny stuff here about the fickleness of youth. Check it out!
    • After all, it’s not like Mr. Elton really wanted anything but her money (and rich girls are a dime a dozen).
    • And Harriet? Well, she’s not really the romantic heroine type. She’ll get over it.
  • Chapter Seventeen

    • After the snows stop, Mr. and Mrs. John Knightley head back to London.
    • Mr. Woodhouse mourns for their loss. (Of what? Of his daughter Isabella, of course!)
    • Emma walks over to Mrs. Goddard’s, where Harriet is staying.
    • She decides that it’s time to break the bad news to Harriet – who takes it surprisingly badly. Maybe she actually has feelings, after all?
    • Harriet goes on a long rant about Mr. Elton’s perfections and all the ways in which she’s not worthy. We’ll just skip over that.
    • Emma regrets the fact that she, Harriet, and Mr. Elton are all stuck in Highbury. ("This town’s not big enough for the three of us...")
    • Unfortunately for Harriet, Mr. Elton is the current pin-up man at Mrs. Goddard’s school – so she has to hear about how hot he is all the time. It sucks to be her.
  • Chapter Eighteen

    • Moving on…
    • Frank Churchill still hasn’t shown up in Highbury.
    • Luckily, this means that Emma can fantasize about him some more.
    • In fact, the more she thinks about Frank, the more she becomes convinced that he’s perfect for her.
    • They share the same friends, they have the same interests (at least, that’s what she’s heard).
    • Of course, she’s never met the guy.
    • But hey, how important is reality?
    • Mr. Weston (the eternal optimist) is sure that Frank will come soon.
    • Mrs. Weston, however, begins to have her doubts about Frank – which she shares with Emma.
    • Emma and Mr. Knightley get into a spat about Frank’s excuses for not coming to visit.
    • Emma plays devil’s advocate: even though she secretly believes that Frank must be spineless, she argues that his dependence on his aunt and desire to keep her happy make it impossible for him to disobey her.
    • Mr. Knightley, indignant at the disrespect Frank is showing to his father and step-mother by not coming, argues that Frank is a spineless wimp.
    • We find out (surprise, surprise) that Frank also likes drinking and the ladies. (This doesn’t shock Emma at all. Everybody likes a bad man….)
    • As the argument continues, Emma says some pretty smart things. Too bad she doesn’t actually believe them.
    • Mr. Knightley gets all worked up and storms off.
    • Realizing that this is the first time that she doesn’t respect Mr. Knightley’s opinion, Emma decides that maybe she believes her own arguments, after all.
    • It’s amazing what you can talk yourself into!
  • Chapter Nineteen

    • Emma decides to pay a long-overdue visit to the Bateses.
    • She’d go more often, but…well, they’re just so poor. And, of course, there’s the fact that Miss Bates only stops talking to gasp for air.
    • As she and Harriet walk to the Bateses’ house, Emma feels a slight tinge of guilt: Mr. Knightley’s tried to lecture her about her social responsibility towards the Bateses before.
    • At least Emma’s timed her visit to avoid hearing about Miss Bates’ niece, Jane Fairfax.
    • …or so she thinks.
    • After blabbering about the Coles (social climbers, but more on them later) and other nobodies, Miss Bates tells Emma that a letter from Jane has just arrived.
    • Settle in, folks – it’ll be a long afternoon. Miss Bates likes to read all her letters aloud.
    • And then repeat them for her deaf mother.
    • Luckily, our heroine outwits the witless Miss Bates.
    • Emma gets Miss Bates to talk about the letter, not read it. (Sigh of relief from all readers here, please.)
    • It turns out that Jane will soon arrive in Highbury.
    • OK, so you’re probably breathless to find out why. Read the book!
    • Just kidding. Here’s why: Jane was raised by the Campbells. Their daughter just got married (she’s now Mrs. Dixon). Mr. and Mrs. Dixon just left for Ireland, which means that Jane has nowhere to live.
    • Emma’s slightly intrigued by Mr. Dixon. Could he be a spurned lover? When she hears that he once saved Jane’s life, she’s convinced. Jane is a woman with a past.
    • And not just any kind of a past: a double-dealing, husband-stealing, dirty kind of a past.
    • After all, why else would anybody ever choose to live with Mrs. and Miss Bates?
    • As it turns out, Jane is also pretty sick right now. (Heartache, perhaps?)
    • Before Miss Bates can repeat all the news again, Emma and Harriet escape. Lucky them.
  • Chapter Twenty

    • Our narrator gives us all the dirt on Jane Fairfax.
    • Her parents died when she was a baby, but a friend of her father’s (Capt. Campbell) offered to raise her. He’s got a daughter that’s Jane’s age.
    • Jane is, apparently, perfect. (Can you see why Emma hates her now?)
    • She’s prettier, smarter, and all-around better than her friend Miss Campbell.
    • For some reason, however, Miss Campbell and Jane love each other like sisters.
    • Of course, as you’ve probably figured out by now, in this novel pretty girls don’t get too far on their looks alone.
    • Jane’s poor. Miss Campbell is rich. Miss Campbell gets engaged; Jane has to find a job as a governess.
    • The Campbells love Jane like a daughter, but they can’t give her any of their money.
    • Why not?
    • This means that Jane has to go out into the wide, wide world.
    • The Campbells put it off as long as possible, but Jane decides that, once she turns 21, she’s cutting the cord.
    • Fortunately, right after she turns 21, she gets sick.
    • And that brings us up to speed with Jane. Now back to Emma:
    • Emma sort of hates Jane (in the sense that she's slightly envious).
    • In other words, Emma’s pretty smart – she knows that Jane is more accomplished than she is.
    • To make matters worse, Mr. Knightley constantly tells Emma that Jane is better than she is. Even if you didn’t hate Jane before, wouldn’t you hate her now?
    • Despite her past history, Emma decides to start afresh.
    • Emma visits Jane and is pleasantly surprised at how pretty and elegant she is (congratulating herself, of course, about how open-minded she’s being for coming to this conclusion).
    • Before long, however, things are back to normal.
    • It starts when Jane comes to Hartfield with her aunts.
    • The combination of Miss Bates’ chatter and Jane’s refusal to dish on Frank Churchill (whom she met in Weymouth) makes Emma think Jane insufferable.
    • And unbearable. And lots of other nasty words we won’t mention here.
  • Chapter Twenty-One

    • 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.
    • Mr. Woodhouse frets about Mrs. Bates (she’s actually pretty poor).
    • Mr. Woodhouse decides to send her a bit of the hog he just slaughtered. Emma tells him she’s already sent half of it to the Bates house.
    • Sure enough, five minutes later Miss Bates bustles in with Jane in tow, full of thanks for the pork.
    • She’s also full of news. Mr. Elton is getting married to a woman he met in Bath (that’s a resort town in England).
    • Her name is Miss Hawkins.
    • Gossip on the street has it that Miss Hawkins has money – and not too much else going for her.
    • Emma’s not surprised…but she dreads having to tell Harriet.
    • Miss Bates bustles out; a rain shower starts. Five minutes after it stops, Harriet arrives.
    • Emma’s terrified that she’s heard the news, too – but Harriet is a bundle of nerves for a whole different reason.
    • She accidentally ran into Robert Martin and his sister in the store.
    • Harriet hid behind a barrel at first.
    • They saw her anyway. Bet that was awkward, huh?
    • It seemed like Robert and his sister were going to shun Harriet, but then they decided that that was unkind. Harriet tells Emma that she and Robert spoke briefly.
    • Emma is surprised – didn’t she help Harriet get over Robert a long time ago?
    • She’s also a bit troubled by what seems like very gentlemanly behavior on Mr. Martin’s part. Could Mr. Knightley be right about him?
    • Deciding that this adventure might help Harriet keep her mind off of Mr. Elton, Emma breaks the bad news about Elton’s marriage.
    • Harriet is devastated – but strangely not as shaken by this as she was by running into Mr. Martin.
  • Chapter Twenty-Two

    • The soon-to-be-Mrs. Elton is the talk of the town. Somehow all the gossips know all her dirty little secrets, even though she hasn’t yet set foot in Highbury.
    • Miss Augusta Hawkins has £10,000 to her name (let’s keep this in perspective here, folks – Emma’s got £20,000, so we could say that Mr. Elton is settling).
    • Hearing about Miss Hawkins, Emma decides that she’s really no better than Harriet in anything but her pocketbook.
    • Miss Hawkins is not from a good family – in fact, her only claim to fame is a newly-rich brother-in-law. (Insert universal shudder here at the thought of the nouveau riche).
    • Now that Mr. Elton is back in town, Harriet starts mourning his marriage.
    • OK, OK, she’s a bit sappy – but she’s got a broken heart. Give her a break!
    • Emma decides that perhaps Harriet should accept an invitation from the Martins to visit them. After all, anything’s better than hearing about Mr. Elton some more!
  • Chapter Twenty-Three

    • Emma hatches a plan: she’ll drive Harriet out to the Martins’ farm, wait fifteen minutes, and then drive back to pick her up.
    • This way, Harriet can get all the excitement of a new visit – and there will be no chance that she’ll slip back into her old friendships.
    • Everything goes according to plan.
    • Harriet seems delighted to have met the Martins again.
    • As she tells Emma, it was awkward at first, sure, but then they got started talking about the cows Harriet met last summer…and who doesn’t get excited about cows?
    • The Martins also point to the place where Harriet once measured her height on a wall.
    • Looking at the spot, Harriet remembers Robert. Sigh.
    • Just as Harriet starts to feel at home again with the Martins, however, Emma’s carriage pulls up.
    • The Martins recognize this for what it is – an attempt to show them that Harriet only came to visit out of politeness, not out of friendship. They’re hurt.
    • Emma feels a teenie-weenie bit bad about helping Harriet to be so cruel…but, after all, one must make sacrifices to remain in good society!
    • A visit to the Westons at Randalls (their house) will push Harriet and her messy love life out of Emma’s mind – she heads over to their house, but they’ve just left.
    • Disappointed, Emma returns home. Once there, she finds that Mr. Weston is sitting in the parlor.
    • With the long-awaited Frank Churchill.
    • Gasp.
    • He’s everything she dreamed of.
    • Handsome, friendly, polite and apparently attached to his new step-mother, Frank charms all the people he meets – including Emma.
    • Emma immediately starts daydreaming about marrying Frank.
    • He’s the perfect match, really, and she can tell that the Westons are already thinking about the same thing.
    • Mr. Woodhouse isn’t thinking about marriage at all. But that’s because marriage is the greatest evil he can think of. It takes people away from him.
    • Emma finds out that Frank met Miss Jane Fairfax while he was in Weymouth.
    • The Westons leave to visit the Bateses.
  • Chapter Twenty-Four

    • Frank and Mrs. Weston show back up at Hartfield early the next morning.
    • Emma joins them as they walk into town.
    • Frank seems charmed by everything in the town – and most of all the delightful Miss Woodhouse.
    • Excited by the handsome new man, Emma starts up a witty conversation about Jane Fairfax, insinuating that she was in love with her friend’s husband.
    • Mr. Churchill agrees with her in everything – including poking fun at Miss Fairfax’s past.
    • They have a delightful walk.
    • Emma reflects that Frank isn’t quite as smart as she imagined, but he’s definitely cute.
    • And he’s enthusiastic about her. Isn’t that enough?
  • Chapter Twenty-Five

    • Emma’s (imaginary) love affair with Frank is a bit shaken when she hears that he’s driven all the way to London just to get his hair cut.
    • Sure, he’s rich and can do whatever he wants…but he wants to do this?
    • London’s a long way away.
    • And it’s expensive. And, well, more than a little silly.
    • The Westons and Emma have a long talk about what Frank’s haircut means. You can tell that there’s not a lot going on in Highbury, huh?
    • Mr. Knightley hears about Frank’s haircut and mutters something under his breath about Frank being an idiot.
    • Emma pretends not to hear him.
    • Emma learns that the Coles are giving a party.
    • She promptly decides not to go.
    • The Coles, you see, aren’t quite as high up the social ladder as the Woodhouses.
    • In fact, they’re only the second most important family in town.
    • Emma spends several delightful minutes thinking about how she’s going to turn their invitation down.
    • There’s just one problem – she hasn’t gotten an invitation yet.
    • As she finds out, everyone else in town is already invited.
    • All of a sudden, the party doesn’t look so bad anymore…maybe she would have gone!
    • Finally, an invitation from the Coles arrives.
    • Mr. Woodhouse is convinced that Emma will come down with a dreadful cold if she leaves the house for a party – but she manages to talk him out of his fears.
  • Chapter Twenty-Six

    • Frank returns from London with a spiffy new haircut.
    • Emma spends some time thinking about the relative virtues of Frank and Mr. Knightley.
    • There’s no way that Mr. Knightley would ever do anything as silly as traveling to get his hair cut.
    • Even if Mr. Knightley did do something silly, he’d do it better.
    • And he’d know that it was silly. Frank can’t seem to tell the difference between normal and completely ridiculous.
    • OK, so Frank’s a diva. But he’s still loveable…right?
    • The night of the Coles’ party arrives.
    • Mrs. Bates comes to Hartfield to spend time with Emma’s father.
    • The big news at the party is that someone has given Jane Fairfax a piano. An anonymous someone.
    • Emma promptly imagines an entire romance between Jane and Mr. Dixon (her friend’s husband). She tells Frank all about it. He’s highly amused.
    • The two whisper together all through the night.
    • Other than that, the party is pretty much your everyday trivial social scene. Emma enjoys herself more than she thought she would.
    • Strangely, Frank keeps staring at Jane. When Emma calls him on it, he makes some snide remarks about Jane’s hair.
    • He even leaves Emma for a bit to say hello to Jane.
    • Emma wants to see what he says, but Frank’s body blocks the way.
    • After dinner, Mrs. Cole asks Emma and Jane to play on the piano.
    • Emma’s OK at playing the piano – but at least she’s learned to work what she’s got. She plays a few simple songs.
    • Surprisingly, Frank Churchill joins in singing. Emma’s secretly thrilled.
    • After Emma plays, Jane plays. Perfectly. Of course.
    • Frank asks Jane to play again. And again.
    • Mr. Knightley gets angry: Jane has a cold. She shouldn’t be straining to play so much.
    • Mr. Knightley convinces Miss Bates to tell Jane to stop.
    • Emma listens with Mrs. Weston, who has a new theory: she thinks Mr. Knightley is in love with Jane.
    • After all, who wouldn’t be?
    • Emma’s strangely put out by this thought.
    • Mrs. Weston’s hunch seems to be supported by the fact that Mr. Knightley seems very protective of Jane that evening.
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven

    • As Emma thinks about the party the next morning, she almost regrets spreading rumors about Jane (to Frank, of course). It doesn’t quite seem like the proper thing to have done.
    • Emma walks with Harriet to town.
    • They meet Frank and Mrs. Weston on the way. (Is it just us, or does Frank seem to be wandering the streets ALL THE TIME? It’s a bit creepy….)
    • There’s a funny scene involving Harriet picking out a dress. Read the book to find out more.
    • As they leave the store, Miss Bates rushes out to meet them. She invites them all to hear Jane play on her new piano.
    • It turns out that Frank is already at the Bates house fixing Mrs. Bates’ glasses. He’s so helpful.
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight

    • All of the company gathered in the Bates house speculate on who could have given Jane such a nice piano.
    • After all, a piano is a pretty major gift!
    • The general consensus, that Colonel Campbell sent it to his ward, is one that Emma secretly rejects.
    • Emma notices Frank smiling knowingly at her across the room.
    • Perhaps he’s thinking again of Emma’s comments about Mr. Dixon?
    • Jane begins to play music that came with the piano.
    • Ironically, all of the music is from Ireland (where the Dixons now are).
    • Emma and Frank whisper together about the potential implications of this.
    • Again, Emma feels slightly bad about making so much fun of Jane, but, well…it’s fun.
    • Jane plays an Irish tune.
    • Frank whispers to Emma that the song is his favorite one.
    • Miss Bates spots Mr. Knightley out in the road.
    • She shouts out the window to him to join them.
    • He seems inclined to come up for a few minutes, but when he hears that Frank is there, he rides quickly off. (Tension, anyone?)
    • Miss Bates recounts the fact that Mr. Knightley sent an entire bushel of apples – in fact, his very last bushel – over to their house when he found out that Jane liked apples.
    • Nothing says loving like a bucket-o-apples.
    • Jane’s a little upset that Miss Bates told Mr. Knightley that they were out of apples. She doesn’t like to be dependent on anyone. Especially handsome, single men.
  • Chapter Twenty-Nine

    • Our narrator spends a good chunk of time reflecting upon dancing and its effects on young people. It’s actually quite funny – we recommend you check it out!
    • The upshot of this meditation is that Frank decides to have a ball of his own.
    • Emma heads over to Randalls to help Frank plan the ball.
    • There’s only one problem: Randalls is a pretty small house. In fact, they might only be able to fit three couples in one room. And who ever heard of a dance with just six people?
    • Frank and Emma spend the morning pacing around the rooms at Randalls. Surprisingly, the rooms don’t seem to be getting any bigger.
    • Mr. Weston wants to fit everybody in the house, anyway.
    • Mrs. Weston isn’t so sure.
    • They all stand around, perplexed.
    • A brilliant idea! Frank proposes that the Westons rent out the local pub (the Crown) and have their dance in the upper rooms.
    • Later that day, Frank and Emma share their idea with Emma’s father.
    • Mr. Woodhouse is aghast, astonished, and argumentative.
    • A public house? He’s never even been in a public house. Who knows what sort of diseases might be lurking in the corners of its rooms?
    • Emma thinks that Frank’s idea is a brilliant one.
    • She works with Frank to convince her father that the Crown might actually be safer than Randalls for a large group of people.
    • Finally, Mr. Woodhouse comes around to Emma’s way of thinking. Emma does have a way with words!
    • Emma joins the Westons at the Crown to plan the party.
    • It’s a bit dirty, but it’s nice and big.
    • Mr. Weston paces through the halls. Mrs. Weston and Emma decide where to have dinner.
    • Frank remains excited about everything.
  • Chapter Thirty

    • Mr. Knightley seems much less excited about the ball than Emma – although Emma observes that he’s probably just old and grumpy.
    • Unfortunately, a few days before the ball, Frank’s aunt orders him to come back to her house.
    • In case we have mentioned it, Frank’s aunt has very well-timed illnesses. They seem to crop up whenever Frank does something that she doesn’t like.
    • Sadly, Emma and Frank agree to postpone the ball.
    • As Frank takes his leave, he seems about to say something to Emma. There’s a tense, emotion-filled moment before he rushes out the door…
    • Contemplating Frank’s last words, Emma becomes pretty convinced that he was just on the verge of telling her he loved her. Of course, Emma sort of thinks that an "I love you" from Frank and a dollar will buy her a gumball.
    • Just kidding. This is England. No dollars. No gumballs. It’s a metaphor.
    • In other words, Emma realizes that Frank talks real pretty – but he might not mean everything he says.
    • After Frank leaves, Emma gets word that Jane Fairfax has taken ill; apparently, she caught a bad cold. Jane holes up in her house for several days.
  • Chapter Thirty-One

    • In which Emma thinks a lot about love:
    • OK, so Emma’s decided that she’s in love. Who wouldn’t be?
    • Frank is obviously meant for her.
    • And he’s cute.
    • And he will be rich, if the old aunt will ever get around to dying.
    • Why, then, isn’t she more excited? There are no butterflies in her stomach.
    • After considering her state for a few days, Emma decides that she’s just the right amount in love – she’s not crazy about Frank, but, well, a girl’s only got so many options! And she did imagine once that he would be perfect…
    • A letter from Frank arrives at Mrs. Weston’s house.
    • As we’ve mentioned before, everybody is into everybody else’s business in this town. Emma, of course, reads the letter.
    • Frank writes very, very nicely. In fact, he’s a perfect gentleman on paper.
    • Emma notes that Frank says good things about Harriet in his letter. Could he…? And Harriet?
    • Hmm…it’s an interesting idea. Emma gives up her (supposed) love interest in Frank. After all, arranging a match is just so much more interesting than being in one.
    • Harriet’s still moping about Mr. Elton. Let’s be honest – Eeyore is probably more well-adjusted than Harriet.
    • Emma argues that Harriet’s fixation on Mr. Elton is actually a slap in the face to Emma, which snaps Harriet out of her misery. In Harriet’s world, Mr. Elton might be perfect, but Miss Woodhouse – well, Miss Woodhouse is in a class of her own.
    • Luckily, Emma feels exactly the same way.
  • Chapter Thirty-Two

    • Mrs. Elton arrives in town.
    • Emma immediately dislikes her.
    • Her clothes are garish and pretentious – and her manners match her clothes.
    • Even Mr. Elton’s manners seem to have changed. He’s not the perfect gentleman anymore. He simpers over his wife.
    • Harriet doesn’t seem to notice how coarse the new Mrs. Elton is – she’s too invested in thinking that everything Mr. Elton does is perfect.
    • Of course, manners are manners. Even if you hate someone’s guts, you still pay them social visits.
    • Accordingly, Emma pays Mrs. Elton a social visit.
    • As they talk, Emma realizes that she dislikes Mrs. Elton even more than she originally thought possible.
    • Mrs. Elton peppers her conversation with references to "her brother, Mr. Suckling" (the only rich family member she has).
    • Mr. Suckling’s name should speak for itself.
    • Moreover, Mrs. Elton has the nerve to compare Emma’s ancestral home, Hartfield, to the home that the Sucklings bought, Maple Grove.
    • F.Y.I. – property values are a HUGE thing for this novel. Check out our discussion of Austen and property in the "Symbols, Metaphors and Allegories" section of this module.
    • The quick and dirty version, however, goes something like this:
    • Good families have had the same home for generations.
    • Really, really good families have had the same home since the time of the cavemen.
    • The Sucklings have had Maple Grove for about eleven years. In other words, they sort of suck.
    • Moreover, talking about your property all the time is just about as vulgar as leaving the price tag on a new Prada. It’s not cool if you’ve got to point it out.
    • Mrs. Elton chatters a lot. She even offers to introduce Emma to her friends (an offer which Emma secretly scorns).
    • As if that weren’t enough, Mrs. Elton brings up the fact that Mrs. Weston was once Emma’s governess.
    • In fact, Mrs. Elton was surprised to find Mrs. Weston to be so well-mannered.
    • Moreover, Mrs. Elton just met Mr. Knightley – and she was surprised to find that he was actually a gentleman!
    • That’s enough for Emma. She loses it. Luckily, she’s too angry to speak.
    • The Eltons leave, convinced that Mrs. Elton has made a new best friend.
    • Emma spends a good deal of time thinking about all the nasty things she’ll have to say about the Eltons when Frank Churchill returns.
  • Chapter Thirty-Three

    • More of the Eltons:
    • Emma notices that the Eltons (both Mr. and Mrs.) go out of their way to snub Harriet. This makes Emma hate them just a little bit more.
    • Mrs. Elton takes a liking to Jane Fairfax. She tells Emma that "we" must bring her out into the world more.
    • Emma wants no part of a "we" that includes Mrs. Elton. Or Jane Fairfax, for that matter.
    • Nonetheless, she does pity Jane for the "assistance" that she’s about to receive from Mrs. Elton.
    • Even Emma can see that Jane is approximately 37 million times more of a gentlewoman than Mrs. Elton ever could be.
    • Interestingly, soon after this visit Mrs. Elton grows suddenly cold towards Emma.
    • As you can guess, Emma’s rather OK with that.
    • Emma wonders why Jane Fairfax is still staying with her aunts. It can’t be too pleasant to stay with the Bateses – and now that Mrs. Elton’s in the picture, Emma imagines that it must be insufferable.
    • She talks Jane’s situation over with Mrs. Weston when they next meet.
    • Mrs. Weston suggests that perhaps Miss Bates unwittingly assisted Mrs. Elton’s claim to "protect" Jane.
    • Once her aunt asked for help, it might have been too hard for Jane to ask Mrs. Elton to leave her alone.
    • Mr. Knightley, who’s also part of the conversation, agrees.
    • Perhaps he was the one to send the piano to Jane?
    • Proclaiming that sending a huge gift to a lover anonymously is the sort of thing that only a naïve man would do, Mr. Knightley seems to clear himself of any such suspicions.
    • Emma slyly asks Mr. Knightley if he likes Jane.
    • Mr. Knightley turns a bit red – but he declares that, although he thinks Jane is perfect, he’s not in love with her.
    • After he leaves, Mrs. Weston wonders aloud if Mr. Knightley doth protest too much.
  • Chapter Thirty-Four

    • Even though Emma hates Mrs. Elton, manners are manners. We’ve talked about this before, haven’t we?
    • Everyone has to throw a dinner party for a new bride. That’s just how it is.
    • Emma throws a dinner party for the Eltons.
    • She invites Harriet because she needs to have eight people in order to have an even table.
    • Harriet begs to be left out, but to no avail. Emma pushes her into coming.
    • At the last minute, Emma’s brother-in-law, Mr. John Knightley, announces that he’s coming through to drop off Emma’s nephews.
    • There’s a brief scramble to figure out how have an eight-person dinner with nine people, but it gets resolved smoothly.
    • At the party, there’s a long conversation about Jane’s walk to the post office. It’s fascinating. Aren’t all post offices? We won’t spoil your fun, however. You can read it yourself.
    • There’s another great conversation about handwriting. Emma declares that Frank Churchill has the best man’s handwriting that she’s ever seen.
    • Mr. Knightley thinks that Frank writes like a girl. And that’s not supposed to be a compliment.
    • The party all heads in to dinner.
    • Mrs. Elton strategically places herself on the end of the room closest to the dining room in order to make it seem like she’s the first person who walks into the dinner.
  • Chapter Thirty-Five

    • 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.
    • Prodded by Mrs. Elton into talking about her future, Jane says that she won’t be returning to live with the Campbells once they return from Ireland.
    • She’s determined to make her own living as a governess.
    • We interrupt this program for a brief history lesson:
    • Amazingly enough, nineteenth-century England isn’t exactly known for its gender equality.
    • Unmarried gentlewomen had very few options. And those options weren’t exactly lucrative.
    • If you happened to have wealthy relatives, you could sponge off of them for the rest of your life.
    • If you didn’t have wealthy relatives, you could become a governess.
    • This involved caring for whiny kids (and making pretty awful wages) for the rest of your life. (For a happier ending to this story, see Jane Eyre.)
    • That’s it. Pretty short interruption, huh? That’s because there weren’t all that many options out there.
    • OK, back to our party: Mrs. Elton, helpful as ever, barges into the conversation and demands that Jane allow her to find a family for Jane.
    • Jane refuses. Mrs. Elton refuses to accept her refusal. (Again. And again. And again.)
    • Mr. Weston enters with news: Frank writes that he will soon move with his aunt to a vacation spot about nine miles away from Highbury.
    • It’s close enough to allow Frank to come over all the time.
    • Emma’s thrilled. Mr. Knightley doesn’t look so pleased.
  • Chapter Thirty-Six

    • Mr. Weston thinks that it’s only polite to tell Mrs. Elton how pleased he will be to introduce her to Frank.
    • Mrs. Elton immediately assumes that Mr. Weston is paying her a special compliment. (Probably because she’s the most important woman she knows.)
    • Mr. Weston declares that Frank’s aunt is a "fine lady."
    • Not willing to be outdone, Mrs. Elton asserts that her sister is also a fine lady.
    • It becomes clear that Mr. Weston didn’t mean his comment to be a compliment.
    • Mrs. Elton’s in a pickle: she wants Mr. Weston to admire her sister, but she doesn’t want her to be the same sort of fine lady as Mrs. Churchill.
    • She does some fancy back-pedaling.
    • Luckily, Mr. Weston’s attention span isn’t too good. He’s forgotten all about their conversation within seconds.
    • Mr. Weston and Mrs. Elton begin to have a battle of the tongues:
    • He talks for awhile about Frank and the Churchills.
    • She replies by talking for awhile about her sister and Maple Grove.
    • He responds with an answer about Frank. She talks about her sister. It’s almost like two monologues going on side-by-side.
    • Emma sends for tea. Several members of the party play cards.
    • Emma is left to talk to her brother-in-law, Mr. John Knightley.
    • Mr. John Knightley usually hates dinner parties. Also, he’s a bit of a bear to begin with. Emma’s actually delighted to find that he seems to be in a fairly good mood!
    • Mr. John Knightley mentions that his two boys (who will be spending the next few weeks with their aunt Emma) can be a bit rowdy.
    • He offers to take them back whenever they begin to cause trouble.
    • Observing 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).
    • The Knightley brothers chuckle over Emma’s ruffled feathers.
  • Chapter Thirty-Seven

    • 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.
    • He’s a great friend, sure, but he’s just not the upstanding gentleman that she imagined he would be. In other words, imaginary Frank was so, so much better than real Frank. (Isn’t that always the way things work out?)
    • Frank does indeed arrive within a few days. He and the Westons visit Hartfield.
    • Emma notices a slight difference in Frank’s manners.
    • He’s still fun and engaging, but he doesn’t seem to have any affection left for her, either.
    • 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.
    • Frank doesn’t visit Hartfield again during his stay, proving Emma right once again.
    • It’s got to be hard to be so right all the time, don’t you think?
    • Now that Frank’s residence is a mere nine miles from Highbury, however, the Westons decide to resurrect their plans for a ball.
    • Although he’s slightly terrified at the thought of rampant disease, Mr. Woodhouse does agree that a ball in May is less likely to cause a pandemic than a ball in February.
    • Mr. Woodhouse just prays that nothing will happen to the young boys while Emma is out dancing. How could she ever forgive herself? (Sound like any parental guilt trips you’ve gotten?)
  • Chapter Thirty-Eight

    • In which the Westons have a ball:
    • Mr. Weston particularly asks Emma to arrive at the ball early.
    • As a close, close friend, he wants her to look over the arrangements before the ball starts.
    • Once Emma arrives, however, she realizes that Mr. Weston seems to have many close, close friends. Just about everybody she knows shows up a few hours early to "inspect" the ballroom.
    • Despite the early start, everyone has a wonderful time at the ball.
    • Mrs. Elton had arranged to bring Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax in her carriage, but she apparently forgot.
    • There’s a bit of a hubbub as Mr. Weston and Mrs. Elton try to figure out whose carriage should be sent to collect them.
    • As the host, Mr. Weston argues that his carriage should be sent; as Jane’s "special" friend, Mrs. Elton thinks that she has the right to take care of the Bateses.
    • Mrs. Elton wins.
    • Typically, a hostess greets all the guests as they arrive. Of course, Mrs. Elton seems to think that it’s as much her party as the Westons’. She stands on the other side of Mrs. Weston to greet the guests.
    • Emma and Frank make fun of Mrs. Elton from a distance.
    • Miss Bates and Jane enter.
    • Miss Bates has lots and lots of news about everything that happened to everybody in Highbury that day. She proceeds to tell all of it.
    • Mrs. Elton loudly remarks that she "approves" of Frank Churchill. Frank pretends to ignore her, continuing to spend time with Emma.
    • 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).
    • Luckily, Mr. Weston asks Mrs. Elton to dance.
    • 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 declines, but suggests that he should ask any one of the single young ladies to dance – she points out Harriet as one such lady.
    • Mr. Elton immediately backs away, muttering something about being an old married man.
    • Emma and Harriet overhear all of this conversation. Emma watches in dismay as Mrs. Elton exchanges smug looks with her husband.
    • Immediately after this, Mr. Knightley (who overhead the exchange, as well) asks Harriet to dance.
    • Harriet goes from tearful to blissful in a few seconds.
    • 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.
    • Emma ignores this point.
    • Mr. Knightley also tells Emma that he was astonished to find out how lovely and simple Harriet actually is.
    • OK, he knew she wasn’t all that bright – but after dancing with her, he doesn’t think that she’s all that bad, either. She’s infinitely better than that cat, Mrs. Elton!
    • 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. It won’t be like Flowers in the Attic if they decide to dance.
    • Mr. Knightley agrees. (Perhaps a bit too emphatically…)
  • Chapter Thirty-Nine

    • As Emma thinks over the ball the next day, she’s satisfied to remember that Mr. Knightley shares her opinion about the Eltons.
    • Even Harriet seems to be getting over Mr. Elton after his snub at the ball.
    • Everything is as perfect as Emma could want it to be: Harriet is no longer in love, Mr. 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’s face is completely white.
    • Together Emma and Frank assist her into the house, where she faints on the couch.
    • Once Harriet recovers, she shares her story.
    • Harriet and another classmate had been walking along a lane when a small band of gypsy children came up behind them.
    • Harriet’s friend ran away.
    • Harriet, whose muscles were cramped from dancing the night before, couldn’t really walk.
    • The gypsy kids surround her threateningly.
    • We know what you’re thinking. She’s scared of a group of kids? Seriously? But maybe they were really scary kids.
    • Or maybe she’s just a wimp.
    • Either way, she’s having a rough day.
    • She offers the children a shilling to go away, but they seem to know a good thing when they’ve found it. They refuse to leave.
    • Suddenly, Frank Churchill comes around the corner and rescues her.
    • (Frank had meant to go back to London early in the morning, but he stayed to return a pair of scissors to Miss Bates.)
    • Frank chases the children away and helps Harriet to Emma’s door.
    • Frank leaves to begin his journey to London.
    • Although Emma worries about Harriet, she’s actually rather delighted about this turn of events.
    • Woman in distress + handsome hero = true love. Right?
    • She’s sure that this rescue is the groundwork for Harriet and Frank’s love.
    • Nonetheless, Emma worries about telling her father the news – and rightfully so.
    • Mr. Woodhouse frets for days about the threat of savages on the loose.
    • Our narrator informs us that the gypsies move out of Highbury before they can be found.
    • Fortunately, upon hearing of the incident, all of Mr. Woodhouse’s neighbors make sure to ask him about his health. (C’mon, even hearing about a gypsy attack is enough to make any man sick!)
  • Chapter Forty

    • 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)!
    • In the box, she’s collected trinkets which memorialize her love for him. She’s ready to burn it.
    • Surprised, Emma asks Harriet what trinkets she could have collected.
    • Harriet lovingly unwraps a wooden casket and pulls out a bit of "plaister" (sort of like a band-aid). Mr. Elton played with it once.
    • It goes on. And believe us, it only gets more pathetic. It’s also pretty funny.
    • Harriet’s got a pencil Mr. Elton used once.
    • She’s got lots more stuff. All of it would raise a fortune on EBay.
    • Actually, that’s not totally true. It’s all mostly worthless.
    • Emma happens to think Harriet’s collection is pretty amusing, as well.
    • She struggles to hide a laugh at the maudlin nature of her friend.
    • Harriet insists on burning the entire contents of the box – even though Emma points out that the plaister might be useful later on. Who knows? Maybe she could cut herself while burning the box.
    • 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.
    • After all, this man is a perfect gentleman.
    • He’s far above Harriet in rank and reputation – but Harriet is sure that he’s shown some signs of affection for her!
    • And he recently saved her from a horrible situation.
    • 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.
    • Sure, he’s more eligible than she is – but Harriet is sweet enough and pretty enough to make up for her lack of fortune.
    • 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.
    • She tells Harriet, however, never to mention her man by name.
    • That way, Emma’s not really helping her along.
    • They leave each other, confident that they’ve not said enough so that they understand each other perfectly.
    • ...and anytime there’s perfect understanding, there’s got to be trouble ahead!
  • Chapter Forty-One

    • As the summer wears on, Mr. Knightley becomes convinced that Frank’s relationship with Jane Fairfax (or at least to Jane Fairfax) is more than meets the eye.
    • He’s caught Frank staring at Jane at weird moments. Often.
    • Worried that Frank’s attention to Jane might hurt Emma, Mr. Knightley treks over to Hartfield.
    • He doesn’t really want to share his suspicions with Emma, but his honor won’t permit him to keep silent.
    • They sure don’t make men like they used to! Or could he have another motive?
    • Frank passes a few days at the Westons’.
    • The Westons, Frank, Jane and the Bateses gather at Hartfield.
    • Frank asks Mrs. Weston whether the doctor has ordered his new carriage yet.
    • Surprised, Mrs. Weston confesses that she knows nothing about a new carriage.
    • Frank blushes and seems confused. He was sure that he read about a carriage in a letter from Mrs. Weston…but perhaps he made it up.
    • Mr. Weston laughs at what seems to be a good joke – the doctor is indeed getting a new carriage. In fact, Weston learned of it when he was visiting the Bateses.
    • Mr. Knightley immediately glances at Jane, who is blushing deeply.
    • Before he can deduce anything further, Emma calls them all in to tea.
    • After tea, Emma pulls out a set of alphabet cards which she made for her nephews.
    • It’s raining, and there’s not much else to do, so the group starts to make word scrambles for each other.
    • Frank makes a scramble for Jane, who pushes it away rapidly.
    • Don’t worry – we can always count on Harriet to create an awkward situation!
    • She picks up the word and asks Mr. Knightley to help her with it.
    • The word is "blunder." That’s another word for a mistake.
    • Does anyone else sense that there’s more going on than meets the eye?
    • Frank, already on to new mischief, creates a word for Emma. It’s "Dixon."
    • Jane sees it and turns angrily away.
    • Calling to her aunt, she gathers up her things to leave.
    • Mr. Knightley stops to investigate the cause of her sudden departure. (Let’s just call him Sherlock Holmes for this chapter, shall we?)
    • He asks Emma to show him the words Frank made. Embarrassed, she says that it’s just a private joke.
    • This worries Knightley even more. (Remember the beginning of the chapter?)
    • He awkwardly tries to gauge how much in love with Frank Emma is by asking her if she’s noticed an attachment between Frank and Jane.
    • Laughing at Mr. Knightley’s ignorance, Emma assures him that there’s absolutely nothing between Frank and Jane.
    • At least, she’s positive that Frank doesn’t care for Jane.
    • Uneasy, Mr. Knightley leaves. (Who is he uneasy about? Read on, friends. Read on.)
  • Chapter Forty-Two

    • The Sucklings are supposed to come to Highbury, but they never show.
    • Mrs. Elton is severely put out.
    • She had planned on showing off her sister (and, of course, her sister’s fancy ride) to the entire town.
    • Now the summer seems like one long boring stretch of…boringness.
    • Mrs. Elton decides to take matters into her own hands and propose a group outing. (Field trip! Yay!)
    • She proposes that everyone (everyone who’s anyone, of course) take a trip to Box Hill. It’s a day trip, and the weather is lovely!
    • Ironically, Emma and Mr. Weston had been planning their own trip to Box Hill.
    • Without Mrs. Elton.
    • As it turns out, Mr. Weston may have mentioned their plans to Mrs. Elton…
    • Right before the scheduled trip, one of Mr. Weston’s horses goes lame.
    • This throws their entire plan off.
    • And, of course, it also throws Mrs. Elton into whining mode.
    • She complains to Mr. Knightley, who suggests that the whole group come to Donwell Abbey (his estate) instead.
    • The strawberries are ripe – and he’d love to have people over to pick them.
    • Mrs. Elton, delighted at the new plan, insists that she be the "Lady Patroness" of the venture.
    • Mr. Knightley curtly rejects her offer. (Insert typical Mrs. Elton gasps and long, windy responses here.)
    • Mrs. Elton wants a donkey. It seems like all smart women have them these days.
    • Mr. Knightley ignores most of this.
    • Mrs. Elton wants to eat outside.
    • Mr. Knightley thinks that that’s a horrible idea.
    • He says that any party at his house will involve eating inside.
    • Like civilized people do.
    • Mrs. Elton wants to arrange the guest list (although she’s willing to allow Mr. Knightley to invite Emma and her father).
    • Mr. Knightley ignores this, as well.
    • Finally, Mrs. Elton wants to greet everyone once they arrive.
    • Mr. Knightley wryly remarks that only one woman will ever arrange things at Donwell Abbey – Mrs. Knightley.
    • Gasp. Mrs. Knightley? What Mrs. Knightley?
    • OK, OK – Mr. K explains that there’s no missus yet.
    • Until she exists, he plans to organize his own parties in his own way.
    • The day of the party arrives. Everyone (even Mr. Woodhouse) comes.
    • Except Frank, that is.
    • He’s been delayed with his aunt – but he promises to come as soon as he can.
    • The company has a delightful time picking strawberries.
    • The narrator pauses several times to admire Donwell Abbey.
    • It’s a beautiful, old, unpretentious house which rambles all over a large and beautiful lawn. Emma loves it.
    • Mr. Knightley is thoughtful enough to leave out all sorts of collections of stuff for Mr. Woodhouse to look through inside. (Being outside all day in the sun would, of course, cause horrible things to happen to him. He’s sure of it.)
    • Before lunch, Emma overhears Mrs. Elton pushing Jane to take a job which Mrs. Elton has found for her.
    • Jane tries (several times) to say no, but a pushy woman is hard to ignore.
    • Mrs. Elton determines that she’ll send an acceptance letter for Jane, anyway.
    • She’s sure that Jane will change her mind.
    • With friends like her, who needs enemies?
    • After lunch, the group heads out for a walk.
    • Emma notices that Mr. Knightley singles Harriet out and walks ahead with her.
    • Curious about what they could be talking about, she sneaks up behind them (it’s not like she’s jealous or anything).
    • It turns out that they’re talking about architecture.
    • And Harriet actually sounds…well, if not intelligent, then close to it!
    • Emma goes inside to check in on her father.
    • He’s happily going through all the collections, and he wants to show Emma all of them.
    • As Emma settles in for a full (and boring) afternoon, Jane Fairfax hurries to the door.
    • Emma runs to meet her.
    • Jane says that she intends to walk back to town – the situation here has become unbearable.
    • For the first time, Emma feels sympathy for Jane.
    • Miss Bates and Mrs. Elton would be enough to drive anyone crazy!
    • She promises not to tell anyone that Jane is leaving.
    • Grateful, Jane presses Emma’s hand and runs out.
    • A few minutes after Jane leaves, Frank rushes into the house.
    • He seems disgruntled and mutters a lot about the madness of walking out in the heat.
    • Emma tries to calm him down, but it’s no use. Finally, he leaves to eat.
    • When he returns, he’s in a much better mood.
    • A good sandwich can make all the difference in the world!
    • He flirts with Emma and promises to come with her (and only her) to Box Hill when they go the next day.
  • Chapter Forty-Three

    • The next day, the exact same crew of people head up to Box Hill.
    • You could think of this party as a nightmare version of day 1 (we sure do).
    • It’s hot, nobody seems very excited about anything, and conversation sort of sucks.
    • They all sit down on a hill, and Emma decides to liven things up a bit.
    • She 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.
    • He asks everyone to share what they’re thinking with Emma.
    • No one takes them up on the offer.
    • 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.
    • Mrs. Elton throws a hissy-fit. For obvious reasons.
    • By and large, the party disintegrates unhappily.
    • Mr. and Mrs. Elton walk off. As they do, Frank makes a sarcastic remark about the "happy couple."
    • Jane gravely replies that a couple that meets too quickly often finds later that they’re not compatible.
    • Frank, more excited than ever, asks Emma to promise to select his wife.
    • That way, she’ll be perfect. Like Emma. Aww….
    • He declares that he’s leaving for Europe for a few years.
    • When he returns, he wants his wife to be waiting for him!
    • Emma laughs and agrees to find him a woman.
    • 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.
    • She’s only ever been kind to Emma.
    • Being mean to Miss Bates, in other words, is sort of like kicking a hurt puppy – only the most uncaring person would ever think of it.
    • Deeply ashamed, Emma turns her face away – and so she misses the chance to tell Mr. Knightley how sorry she truly is.
    • The carriages roll away.
    • Emma cries all the way home.
  • Chapter Forty-Four

    • 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).
    • She’ll work for a friend of the Sucklings.
    • Really, it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity.
    • Or at least, that’s what Mrs. Elton keeps saying.
  • Chapter Forty-Five

    • 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.
    • Apparently, he’s made a sudden decision to travel to London and visit his brother. (Mr. Woodhouse, as you can imagine, is highly unnerved by such unnecessary travel!)
    • 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.
    • The next day, an express letter arrives at the Westons’.
    • Mrs. Churchill finally died.
    • After death, everyone seems a lot nicer than they were alive. Even Mrs. Churchill.
    • Mr. Weston begins to think that he might have liked her, after all.
    • Emma realizes at once what this means: Mr. Churchill, Frank’s uncle, is a pretty easygoing guy. It was only Mrs. Churchill who kept Frank on such a short string.
    • Now that she’s gone, Harriet and Frank can be together at last!
    • (OK, so maybe Emma’s skipping a few steps…like figuring out if they actually like each other. But let’s overlook that for now.)
    • 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 her on a drive. She’s rejected.
    • She drives by her house, trying to make it seem like an accident.
    • Jane still doesn’t come out.
    • 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.
    • Later, she hears rumors that Jane was out walking on the cliffs by herself.
    • Emma tries not to think about what that might mean.
  • Chapter Forty-Six

    • 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. (What’s "it?" Well, read on…)
    • 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.
    • We’ll pause here so that you can catch your breath.
    • Jane Fairfax??? And Frank???? Who would have guessed it?
    • OK, Mr. Knightley guessed, but who pays attention to him, anyway?
    • It gets worse. Frank and Jane became secretly engaged when they met a year ago.
    • They’ve been hiding their love ever since.
    • 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?
    • Nonetheless, as soon as Mrs. Churchill died, Frank confessed his engagement to his uncle – and then ran to Highbury to tell Jane.
    • Frank’s already rushed back to his uncle, leaving an astonished set of parents in his wake.
    • Emma wonders aloud if Frank’s concealment led to unjust or even unkind things being said about Jane.
    • Mrs. Weston is sure that she never even thought anything but the best of Jane.
    • Emma, of course, remains silent.
    • Initially, Mr. Weston condemns the marriage…
    • …but that’s really only because he’s worried about Emma.
    • Once he finds out where Emma’s heart stands, he’s actually really happy.
    • Jane Fairfax is pretty great.
    • In fact, this may be the best thing that Frank has ever done.
    • It’s lucky that he’s easy to convince, huh?
  • Chapter Forty-Seven

    • 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.
    • And she wouldn’t have made fun of her with Frank.
    • 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.
    • She met Mr. Weston on the road.
    • Apparently Mr. Weston has a pretty broad definition of the word "secret."
    • Harriet relates the news to Emma with apparent joy. She’s not even a little bit upset.
    • 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.
    • What about the fact that Frank rescued Harriet from the gypsies?
    • We’re so glad you asked. In fact, Emma asks the same question.
    • As it turns out, the "rescue" Harriet was thinking about was when Mr. Knightley asked her to dance.
    • Mortal terror versus social awkwardness?
    • It’s an easy call. It’s ALWAYS worse to be left alone at a dance!
    • 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!
    • There are a few moments of dramatic self-revelation. It’s pretty amazing, actually.
    • 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. Harriet totally doesn’t deserve him.
    • Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time that an amazing man married a stupid woman.
    • 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!
  • Chapter Forty-Eight

    • 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!
    • Moreover, Harriet wouldn’t even realize what a good man she had.
    • How can you move from liking Mr. Elton to liking Mr. Knightley? It’s like comparing cheez-whiz to caviar. (OK, maybe you like cheez-whiz. Who are we to judge? But you get our point.)
    • Emma allows herself to mope all day.
    • Luckily, Mrs. Weston comes to call.
    • She’s just been to see her future daughter-in-law.
    • She tells Emma that Jane was initially very ashamed and awkward, but she eventually told Mrs. Weston all about her love for Frank.
    • Emma immediately pities Jane.
    • It’s clear that Frank doesn’t know – or doesn’t care – how much damage a secret engagement could do to his reputation. Jane, however, cares deeply.
    • 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.
    • It begins to rain.
    • (It always rains in novels when life sucks.)
    • Alone again, Emma thinks about how everyone will soon leave her.
    • Mrs. Weston is having a baby, which means that she won’t come over nearly as often and that her attention will always be elsewhere.
    • Jane and Frank will soon leave.
    • And Harriet…and Mr. Knightley…
    • 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.
  • Chapter Forty-Nine

    • Let us just interject a quick note:
    • Please read this chapter! Please! OK, we’re begging now. Please!
    • Ahem. We’ll begin again:
    • In the afternoon, the weather clears.
    • Emma wanders in the garden, thinking about her sad, sad future.
    • Suddenly, Mr. Knightley appears.
    • He’s 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 is silent for a few minutes, and then begins to talk about how happy Frank’s life is. At 23, Frank found the woman of his dreams.
    • 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.
    • Mr. Knightley looks deeply hurt, but he agrees that Emma must be right.
    • Emma immediately feels sorry.
    • Wouldn’t a true friend want to help Mr. Knightley, even if it were at her own expense?
    • 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. And she tells Mr. Knightley that she loves him.
    • Now they’re both really happy. For several pages.
    • They agree to get married.
    • Of course.
  • Chapter Fifty

    • Our narrator reminds us that one major obstacle to Emma’s happiness still exists: her father.
    • Mr. Woodhouse would be devastated if his last daughter left him.
    • Oh, yeah – and also Harriet.
    • First things first: 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.
    • And who could stay sad long with the perfect man around?
    • Right after he leaves, she gets a letter from Mrs. Weston –which includes in it a letter from Frank.
    • Frank’s letter explains all that’s happened ever since he met Jane.
    • He also apologizes for seeming to lead Emma on – but he was convinced that she knew about Jane.
    • He says lots of nice things about everyone – including Emma – and seems truly sorry.
    • We know, we know – it’s a bit hard to believe him. But Emma does.
  • Chapter Fifty-One

    • In fact, Emma remains so convinced by Frank’s letter that she shows it to Mr. Knightley.
    • He’s about as excited to hear about Frank as he ever was – but he tolerates it for Emma’s sake.
    • After Mr. Knightley finishes the letter, he brings up some more important business: how can they get married without making Emma’s father miserable?
    • Emma already has a plan. It’s about as good as most of her plans have been.
    • If they wait to get married until after Mr. Woodhouse dies, Emma argues, then he’ll never be unhappy.
    • We told you it was a crappy plan.
    • Luckily, Mr. Knightley agrees with our opinion. He’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.
    • Harriet remains the only sticky point in Emma’s life now.
    • And, as Emma reflects, it’s probably too much to expect that Harriet could love three men in one year.
  • Chapter Fifty-Two

    • 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.
    • Apparently Harriet happens to have developed a bad tooth.
    • Isabella loves doctors. It’s a match made in heaven.
    • With Harriet gone, Emma can finally enjoy spending time with Mr. Knightley without feeling guilty. A little bit of distance can change everything!
    • 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.
    • A sappy make-up scene ensues.
    • Or rather, a sappy make-up scene would probably ensue.
    • Unfortunately, Jane has other visitors, so this can’t happen.
    • In fact, her other visitor turns out to be none other than our old friend, Mrs. Elton.
    • Mrs. Elton remains as catty and superficial as ever.
    • It’s so nice to know that some things never change.
    • Mrs. Elton is pretty sure that Emma doesn’t know anything about the engagement – and so she proceeds to do a lot of loud whispering behind one hand. It’s pretty funny to all concerned.
    • Even Jane has trouble hiding her laughter.
    • Emma and Jane part as friends.
  • Chapter Fifty-Three

    • Mrs. Weston has a baby girl (Anna).
    • Emma’s delighted.
    • As she tells Mr. Knightley, Mrs. Weston will have a chance to try again with a new girl.
    • Of course, Mr. Knightley has to say some things about how loveable Emma is now.
    • Even he admits, though, that she was a pretty spoiled kid.
    • By now, we’re sure that many of you are starting to think that Mr. Knightley sounds a lot like Mr. Big. (For those of you who don’t watch Sex in the City, Big is a man with no apparent real name.) Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered here. Big’s first name is John. Knightley’s first name is George.
    • As Emma declares, however, she’ll never call him anything but Mr. Knightley.
    • (We’re not really sure why. George is a perfectly nice name.)
    • Mr. Knightley receives a letter from his brother congratulating him about the engagement.
    • It’s clear that Mr. John Knightley thinks that Mr. Knightley is getting the short end of the stick.
    • Surprisingly, Emma agrees. She’s lucky to have Mr. Knightley.
    • There’s one last problem: how should Emma tell her father?
    • She plans to enlist the Westons’ help, but finally she manages to gather up enough courage to tell Mr. Woodhouse on her own.
    • He’s devastated, naturally.
    • But he does like Mr. Knightley more than anyone (except Emma, of course).
    • And he does like to have him around all the time.
    • Perhaps this won’t be as devastating as he originally thought.
    • Fortunately, the Westons are very excited about the news.
    • Mr. Weston (who is, we’ve figured out, probably a bigger gossip than Miss Bates) tells the entire town.
    • Mrs. Elton foresees a disastrous future for them.
    • If she hates something, it must be a good sign!
  • Chapter Fifty-Four

    • 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.
    • Mr. Knightley acknowledges that he’s learned, too.
    • He doesn’t think Harriet a fool anymore.
    • In fact, Robert’s upcoming marriage actually makes him pretty happy.
    • 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.
  • Chapter Fifty-Five

    • Harriet returns from London.
    • She and Emma have a rather strained first meeting – but Harriet is too happy to stay angry long.
    • She marries Robert.
    • Once her father (a merchant) hears that she’s getting married, he provides a yearly sum for her.
    • Emma spends a few minutes thinking about what sort of match she once imagined for Mr. Knightley: the illegitimate daughter of a merchant? Really?
    • 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?
    • After all, marriage is marriage. It’s best to put it off as long as possible.
    • 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.
    • Mrs. Elton thinks it’s rather shabby.