Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Emma allots a bedroom to Harriet at Hartfield, hoping to keep the young girl under her supervision. She does, however, still go to Mrs. Goddard's boarding school. While Harriet is away, Knightley calls on the Woodhouses. When Emma's father goes out for his morning walk, Knightley compliments Emma on Harriet's improved manners. He then tells Emma that Martin has come to his house to talk to him about Harriet; he is afraid that Harriet now considers herself socially superior to him. Knightley judges Martin as an extremely sensible, open, and straightforward man, who is a good judge of people and matters. In his opinion, Martin is the perfect match for Harriet.
Emma tells Knightley that Martin has proposed to Harriet through a letter, and she has rejected the offer. Knightley knows that Emma has influenced her young friend and does not approve of her interference in Harriet's life. Knightley reminds Emma that Harriet is in no way socially superior to Martin. Even though she is a pretty girl, she is only a boarding school student with uncertain parentage. He feels that Harriet would have been lucky to have married Martin. Knightley is shocked when Emma tells him that if Harriet had married Martin, it would have socially degraded her. In Emma's romanticized opinion, the generous allowance of money which Harriet receives every month proves that she is a gentleman's daughter and, therefore, superior to Martin.
Emma also expresses the thought that men are more attracted by beauty than brains. Since Harriet is so pretty, she certainly can attract better suitors than Martin. Knightley is amazed at Emma's lack of logic and sorry to see her misuse her intelligence. He warns Emma not to make Harriet vain about her beauty, for no sensible man wants to marry a silly girl, and no respectable man wants to marry a girl with uncertain parentage. He tells Emma that Harriet will never get an offer of marriage from a man of social superiority or wealth. Emma believes she is a better judge of a woman's sensibility than Knightley, but she is upset over his open anger and displeasure.
Before leaving, Knightley tells Emma that her efforts to make Elton propose to Harriet will never succeed. Elton is conscious of his good looks and is ambitious about marriage, wanting to find a wife from the upper social hierarchy. After he leaves Hartfield, Knightley is mad for two reasons; he feels he is partially to blame in Martin's humiliation, because he had encouraged the young man, and secondly, he is upset that Emma had played an undesirable role in the rejection.
The debate between Knightley and Emma clearly shows Knightley to be a mature person with a realistic view of the hierarchical society; he knows that no respectable man will want to marry the illegitimate Harriet. Emma, on the other hand, is immature, romantic, and impractical, for she believes that Elton will not be concerned about Harriet's background, only her beauty. Knightley also shows himself to be a concerned and caring man. He is worried about Emma's shortcomings and wants her to quit deluding herself and meddling in the affairs of others. He is very bothered that he has encouraged Martin to pursue Harriet, and now he has been rejected. He feels terrible about Martin's humiliation. On the other hand, Emma never thinks about how her actions may affect or hurt others.
Knightly proves himself to be a good judge of character in his assessments of Martin, Harriet, Elton, and Emma. Emma is also a good judge of humans; she knows that Elton is ambitious, that Harriet is not very intelligent, and that Martin is sensible. However, Emma's willfulness, conceit, social snobbery, and romantic fancies make her interpret situations to suit her own judgments.
For a few days Knightley does not visit Hartfield. When he does return, his serious face shows that he has not forgotten Emma's behavior. Although somewhat sorry, Emma is not truly repentant and tries to justify her role in instigating Harriet's refusal.
Emma has Harriet's portrait hung over the mantelpiece. Whenever Elton comes to visit, he often gets up to admire it. Harriet is happy that Elton admires the portrait and thinks he is looking at Harriet's beauty, not her artistic skill. In her continued interest to bring the two of them together as quickly as possible, Emma asks Elton to contribute some riddles for Harriet's book. The following day Elton brings a riddle saying that it is his friend's riddle addressed to his ladylove. Harriet cannot understand the riddle, and Emma must explain that it is about courtship. Emma herself is puzzled by the last lines, which admire the ladylove for her ready wit; she knows Harriet has no wit. In spite of the mystery in the last lines of the puzzle, Emma is convinced of Elton's love for Harriet. She is also encouraged when Harriet compares Martin with Elton, saying that Martin can write sensibly while Elton writes wittily.
Around four o'clock, Elton calls on the Woodhouses. Emma understands that Elton has come to judge the reaction of the two women to his riddle. Emma tells him that his riddle has been entered in Harriet's book. Elton glances at Harriet's book and sees that the last two lines have been written by Emma herself. Elton remarks that his friend would consider it the proudest moment of his life for the honor done to him.
Harriet is not clever enough to understand and appreciate riddles by herself. She can barely copy them down in a book and must have their meanings explained by Emma. On the other hand, Emma feels that she herself is very clever and believes that her asking Elton to write a riddle for Harriet has spurred his interest in her further. In truth, she proves her lack of cleverness in the chapter, for she still cannot see that Elton is in love with her, not Harriet. He has even written the riddle for Emma, even though she is too blind to see it. The riddle, therefore, becomes symbolic. The relationship among Emma, Elton, and Harriet has become a kind of a riddle, for Emma wants Harriet to love Elton, but he really loves Emma. Emma, however, is convinced that Elton does love Harriet, while Elton feels he has won Emma's love. Since Harriet believes everything that Emma tells her, she believes that Elton loves her. Emma's influence over Harriet seems to be almost total at this point in the novel. Harriet's comparison of Elton with Martin shows that she now considers Elton to be superior socially and intellectually, just as Emma has taught her.
By the end of this chapter, it is very obvious that Emma is not a good matchmaker. The witty Elton would never be interested in the slow Harriet; neither would he be able to overlook her background and social standing.