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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
After dinner, when tea is served in the drawing room, Elton seats himself on the sofa between Emma and Mrs. Weston. Elton pleads with Mrs. Weston to ask Emma not to visit the sick Harriet until Dr. Perry confirms that Harriet's sore throat is not infectious. Emma is offended and goes to sit with Isabella.
John Knightley, who is anxious to return to Hartfield, grumbles about the snowfall. Mr. Weston suggests that everyone stay at Randalls overnight, but Mr. Woodhouse is opposed. He, John, and Isabella go and get in the first carriage. Emma and Elton are left to ride together in the second one. As soon as the second carriage departs, Elton seizes Emma's hand and declares that he will die if she refuses his proposal of marriage. Emma playfully tells Elton that he is mistaking her for Harriet Smith. Elton tells Emma that he respects Harriet as her friend, but he loves only her. He repeats his passionate proposal and urges her to accept it. Emma accuses Elton of being unsteady in his character, but he assures her that his attention is only for her and must not be misconstrued.
Emma tells Elton that she had encouraged him to visit Hartfield more frequently because she thought he was interested in her friend Harriet; she denies his charge that she had on purpose encouraged him for herself. Emma is also surprised to learn that he thinks Harriet socially inferior to him. Emma tells him that Harriet would no doubt be disappointed to find that Elton has no interest in her, but Emma clearly asserts that she herself has no intentions of marrying. Emma's firm refusal of his proposal makes Elton feel humiliated.
Elton's proposal of marriage is a climax to the Harriet-Elton subplot of the novel, effectively ending Emma's hope for their marriage. It also marks the first defeat of the willful and self- deluded Emma. When Elton says that Harriet is socially beneath him and confesses his love for Emma, she is forced to awaken from her daydreams and realize she has misread the character of Elton. His proposal, made in conventional language and full of heartfelt adoration, exposes Elton as a man of affectations; Emma realizes that he wants to marry her to climb the social ladder into the landed gentry. She certainly has no interest in this man, whom she judges to be a complete egotist.
Elton's proposal puts Emma's character to test, but she remains cool and rejects the offer with firmness. Though Emma is guilty of a great deal of self-deception, she certainly recognizes what she does not want. She does not reject Elton because he is socially inferior to her, but because Elton can never love anyone whole- heartedly, for he seems to love money and social position above all else.
The characters of the Knightley brothers are also developed in this chapter. George is more mature than John, as seen in his ability to properly judge and warn Emma about her behavior. John taunts Mr. Woodhouse for attending a dinner party in such snowy weather, but the more sensitive George cheers up the old man, assuring him that the snowfall has not been that heavy and that they will all be able to go to the party and return home in safety.
At night in her bed, Emma reviews the events of the evening and realizes her mistakes of judgement. She thinks of Harriet's disappointment on learning that Elton has never loved her and blames it on her social position. Emma feels terrible that she has persuaded Harriet to turn down Martin's proposal and believe in Elton's love. She recalls the warnings of the Knightley brothers and understands that both brothers are better judges of human character than she.
Emma thinks about Elton's proposal, which she feels lacked warmth and manners. She is amazed that Elton presumed that she, the heiress to the fortune of thirty thousand pounds, had encouraged him. Emma is, however, honest enough to admit that she had misinterpreted Elton's behavior about the riddle and during Harriet's portrait-drawing. Emma determines that she will not give up on finding a husband for Harriet; she thinks of smart young lawyer, William Coxe, who might become interested in her friend.
When Emma wakes the next morning, she is happy to learn that the snowfall has been so heavy that for a few days she can meet neither Harriet nor Elton.
This chapter shows a new side to Emma. Although she may make mistakes of judgement, she can analyze herself and admit she was wrong. She understands that she has totally misjudged Elton's character, believing he would be drawn to Harriet because of her beauty and sweet temper. Emma is also capable of feeling remorse. She is very much ashamed of what she has done to Harriet, making her reject Martin's proposal and believe that Elton loves her. She scolds herself for her passion of matchmaking and resolves to give up such frivolous past-times. Ironically, by the end of the chapter she is again thinking of a husband for Harriet.
Emma again proves that she is intelligent and a clever judge of character in some cases. She realizes that Elton's proposal was mechanical, strictly adhering to the conventions of the upper class society to which he seeks entry through marriage. His over eagerness is repulsive to Emma and humorous to the reader.