Study Guide

Emma Chapter Forty

By Jane Austen

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!