Study Guide

Emma Chapter Twenty

By Jane Austen

Chapter Twenty

  • Our narrator gives us all the dirt on Jane Fairfax.
  • Her parents died when she was a baby, but a friend of her father’s (Capt. Campbell) offered to raise her. He’s got a daughter that’s Jane’s age.
  • Jane is, apparently, perfect. (Can you see why Emma hates her now?)
  • She’s prettier, smarter, and all-around better than her friend Miss Campbell.
  • For some reason, however, Miss Campbell and Jane love each other like sisters.
  • Of course, as you’ve probably figured out by now, in this novel pretty girls don’t get too far on their looks alone.
  • Jane’s poor. Miss Campbell is rich. Miss Campbell gets engaged; Jane has to find a job as a governess.
  • The Campbells love Jane like a daughter, but they can’t give her any of their money.
  • Why not?
  • This means that Jane has to go out into the wide, wide world.
  • The Campbells put it off as long as possible, but Jane decides that, once she turns 21, she’s cutting the cord.
  • Fortunately, right after she turns 21, she gets sick.
  • And that brings us up to speed with Jane. Now back to Emma:
  • Emma sort of hates Jane (in the sense that she's slightly envious).
  • In other words, Emma’s pretty smart – she knows that Jane is more accomplished than she is.
  • To make matters worse, Mr. Knightley constantly tells Emma that Jane is better than she is. Even if you didn’t hate Jane before, wouldn’t you hate her now?
  • Despite her past history, Emma decides to start afresh.
  • Emma visits Jane and is pleasantly surprised at how pretty and elegant she is (congratulating herself, of course, about how open-minded she’s being for coming to this conclusion).
  • Before long, however, things are back to normal.
  • It starts when Jane comes to Hartfield with her aunts.
  • The combination of Miss Bates’ chatter and Jane’s refusal to dish on Frank Churchill (whom she met in Weymouth) makes Emma think Jane insufferable.
  • And unbearable. And lots of other nasty words we won’t mention here.