Study Guide

Emma Chapter One

By Jane Austen

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.