Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Emma, accompanied by Harriet, pays a visit to a poor, sick family in Highbury. On the way, they pass along the road that leads to the cottage of Elton. Emma suggests that Harriet will soon be staying in that cottage. Harriet then asks Emma why she is not married and does not desire to marry. Emma explains that she has not yet met any young man superior to her in intelligence, whom she can love. Also, since she has money, she is not afraid of remaining unmarried; she knows she will not end up like Miss Bates, depending on the charity of others. As the mistress of Hartfield, she has social position and can stay occupied with her drawing, reading, singing, and handicrafts. Finally, she feels she does not need children since she has her nephews and nieces to love.
When Emma and Harriet visit the poor family, Emma gives them financial help. On their way home, they meet Elton; he has seen them going into town and has watched for their return, but he makes it seem like chance. When he walks with them, Emma purposely falls behind to leave Elton and Harriet together. Emma then stops to repair her shoelace, which she has purposely broken. Elton asks the ladies to go to his house so Emma can find some ribbon to temporarily put in her shoe. Emma leaves Elton and Harriet alone and takes a long time to adjust her shoes. She hopes that Elton will take the opportunity to propose to Harriet. Emma is disappointed to find that they hardly speak to one another. She consoles herself and believes that Elton will propose to Harriet in the future.
Emma's visit to the poor sick family shows her kindness to and consideration for the poor, as is expected of the upper classes. This is in contrast to Emma's willfulness and conceit. When she speaks with Harriet about why she is not married, she tells her that she has found no man who is intelligent enough for her. She also explains that she is rich and does not need a husband to support her. Emma's arrogant attitude is unbecoming. Emma's distaste for Miss Bates also reveals her social snobbery and her dislike for Miss Bates' habit or reading about her niece, Jane Fairfax, hints that Emma views her as a rival.
Emma's views on marriage are filled with self-delusion. She protests too loudly about getting married herself, and the reader knows that she is too immature to analyze her own feelings properly. Her conversation about marriage, however, highlights the problems of women in the times of Jane Austen. Emma herself is in favor of marriage for love and admits that she has not met a man whom she can really love. Emma, however, is very lucky, for she has the means to support herself and nieces and nephews to love. Unfortunately, most young women in her time had to marry primarily for economic security. If they were unable to find a husband, they would wind up as old maids, to be pitied and dependent on the charity of others. Miss Bates is a perfect example.
CHAPTERS 11 & 12
Isabella and John Knightley, accompanied by their five children, come to Hartfield to spend ten days during the Christmas holidays. The pretty and gentle Isabella proves she is a devoted wife, a doting mother, and a dutiful daughter. She makes certain that the children do not disturb her father. Like Mr. Woodhouse, Isabella is delicate and overly concerned about her health and that of her family. She always consults Dr. Wingfield in London, just as Mr. Woodhouse consults Dr. Perry in Highbury.
John Knightley, a popular lawyer by occupation, is a contrast to his amiable wife. He is reserved, short-tempered, and frank to the point of being blunt. Although acceptably attached to his own family, he has little patience with Mr. Woodhouse, especially over his excessive concern about food and health.
While talking among themselves, Mr. Woodhouse refers to Miss Taylor's marriage with Mr. Weston. Isabella and John are happy about the marriage. John inquires about Weston's son, Frank Churchill. Mr. Woodhouse tells him about Frank's letter to Mrs. Weston in place of a personal visit. Isabella is sorry that Frank does not stay with his father. John blames Mr. Weston for neglecting his son and sacrificing his family life in the interest of his socializing with friends and neighbors.
George Knightley is invited to dinner on the first day of the arrival of his brother at Hartfield. Emma is over-anxious to make up with Knightley, who has scolded her over her interference in Harriet's life. When George arrives, Emma is holding her eight-month old niece in her arms, and he lovingly takes the infant away from her. Emma teases him that though they love their nephews and nieces, they differ in their views about people. He then tells Emma that she should trust his judgement since he is sixteen years older. He also reminds her that she needs to be guided by reason, not imagination and fancy.
During the evening, the brothers talk with each other about estate problems, and Mr. Woodhouse talks with his Isabella about health concerns. Emma tries to change the topic of conversation by talking about the Bates women, but no one listens. Isabella, however, brings up Miss Bates' niece, Jane Fairfax, whom she occasionally meets in London. She wishes that Jane were in Highbury, for she would be a good companion for Emma.
The Knightleys come from London to Hartfield to spend the Christmas holidays, and Isabella and her husband are seen for the first time in the novel. Jane Austen's purpose is to present an atmosphere of happy family life with everyone enjoying one another and having pleasant conversation about topics such as family estates and neighbors. It is significant that Emma makes use of this family atmosphere to please George Knightley, who has been upset with her over her meddling and fanciful ideas.
The Woodhouse sisters are contrasted in the chapter. Unlike the willful Emma, Isabella is gentle and amiable. She has also taken after her father in her preoccupation about health matters. Both young ladies, however, are lovely in appearance and manners; both are also genuinely kind to and concerned about their father.
Jane Fairfax is again mentioned in the chapter. Isabella states that she sometimes sees her in London, but wishes she would spend more time in Highbury. She feels that since Jane is the same age as Emma, she would be a perfect companion for her sister.
It is important to note that the letter from Frank Churchill bears the date of September 28. Since this letter arrives shortly after the book begins, a time reference is given, and the reader understands that approximately three months have passed since Miss Taylor's marriage.