Study Guide

Emma Chapter Nine

By Jane Austen

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…

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