Study Guide

Emma Chapter Thirty-Two

By Jane Austen

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.