Study Guide

Emma Chapter Three

By Jane Austen

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"!