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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
After their next few meetings, Emma is totally convinced that Mrs. Elton is self-important, pretentious, ignorant, and ill bred. She has no beauty and can hardly judge people or situations. Mr. Elton, however, is quite proud of his wife. Mrs. Elton grows displeased with Emma for paying no attention to a number of her suggestions for the improvement of Highbury and strikes out at Harriet, making her into a subject to dislike. At the same time, Augusta begins to patronize Jane Fairfax. Emma is surprised that Jane accepts Augusta's attentions and feels sure it will not last.
Emma finds Jane puzzling. She wonders why Jane has preferred Mrs. Elton's patronage to the generous affection of the Campbells. She questions why Jane has turned down the invitation from Mrs. Dixon to join her in Ireland and imagines some compelling factor behind the refusal. Because she is so curious about Jane's strange behavior, Emma cannot help discussing Jane with Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley. According to them, Jane is probably trying to escape from the constant companionship of Miss Bates by accepting Mrs. Elton's friendship. Moreover, Mr. Knightley feels that Mrs. Elton is aware of Jane's superiority in manners and mind and feels awed in Jane's presence. Knightley comments that he too has a high opinion of Jane. The romantic Emma seizes the moment and tells him that his admiration may result in love. Knightley admits that Mr. Cole hinted at such a possibility six weeks ago, but he assures Emma that his admiration of Jane will never result in love, because he finds that she lacks the temperament and spirit that a man wants in a wife. Although he admits that Jane has strong sensibilities, excellent patience, and strong self-control, she is much too reserved. Emma tells Knightley that she does not want him to marry anyone because she is afraid he will not visit as often at Hartfield after his marriage. When Knightley leaves, Mrs. Weston persists in her belief that Knightley is so much preoccupied with the idea of not being in love with Jane that he might ultimately fall in love with her.
The Eltons show their inelegance in manners when they decide to snub Harriet in order to take revenge on Emma. Mr. Elton wants to humiliate Emma for rejecting his proposal, and Mrs. Elton wants to demean Emma since she has refused to cooperate with her in a number of her plans for the improvement of Highbury. Since they dare not criticize Emma openly, they direct their dislike to the innocent Harriet. It is obvious that Jane Austen's sympathy is with the landed gentry, for she always depicts the middle class with a merchant background, as seen in Augusta, with ridicule.
Emma is still ignorant about her true feelings for Knightley; but their relationship progresses to the extent that he assures Emma that he has no romantic interest in Jane. She tells him that she hopes he never marries, because she does not want him to stop coming to Hartfield for regular visits.
Jane Fairfax, as Emma puts it, remains a riddle. Emma cannot understand much of the young lady's actions or thinking; she feels certain, however, that Jane is under someone's influence. The naïve Emma never suspects that it is Frank. She is relieved, however, to learn that Knightley has no romantic interest in Jane and judges her to be much too reserved. Knightley and Emma, like most of the upper class in Highbury, appreciate straight forwardness, frankness, and freedom from double standards.
As a newly wed couple, the Elton's are often entertained. Emma, with the approval of her father, invites them to a dinner party. Besides the Eltons, the guests are to include the Westons, and Knightley. Harriet has decided not to come, for she feels embarrassed in Elton's presence. At Knightley's suggestions, Emma invites Jane in place of Harriet.
Two days before the dinner, John Knightley and his two sons arrive. Mr. Woodhouse objects to dinner for nine. Luckily, Mr. Weston quite unexpectedly has to go to town on business. This sudden change in the guest list puts Mr. Woodhouse at ease. When the party starts, John converses with Jane. He had met Jane in the morning when he had gone to the post-office in the rain. When Mrs. Elton hears about Jane going to the post office in the rain, she insists that she must not go to post-office under any circumstances. She says she will have her servant collect Jane's mail and deliver it; Jane, however, opposes this arrangement. This makes the imaginative Emma believe that the letters Jane receives must be from some one very dear; she does not, however, imagine that the letters are probably from Frank, but suspects they come from Mr. Dixon. She tactfully does not inquire of Jane who the writer is.
Jane changes the topic and praises the post-office staff for delivering letters at the right places and deciphering all kinds of handwriting. This prompts Mr. Woodhouse to praise the handwriting of his daughters. Mr. Knightley observes that Emma's handwriting is stronger than that of Isabella, while Frank's handwriting, which Emma praises, is too small and lacks strength. When dinner is announced, the vulgar Mrs. Elton says, "Must I go first? I am really ashamed of always leading the way."
Jane's visit to the post-office daily, even in rain, suggests that her mail is very important to her; and her refusal to have the mail picked up by someone else suggests that she does not want others to know from whom the letters come. It is not surprising that Emma, given to romantic fantasies, thinks that the letters are written by Mr.Dixon. It is sad that she judges Jane so poorly that she believes she is involved with a married man; at least Emma is tactful enough not to inquire about the author of the letters.
The conversation about handwriting is interesting. It is not surprising that Emma's handwriting is bolder than that of Isabella, for Emma is a stronger personality. It is also not surprising that Frank's handwriting lacks strength and character, just like the person. George Knightley's appreciation of Emma's handwriting can be interpreted as Knightley's interest in her, while Emma's appreciation of Frank's handwriting can be interpreted by as Emma's interest in him.
It is also important to note that Augusta's behavior at the dinner party reveals her lack of class and manners. She offends Jane by insisting on her servant picking up her personal mail, and she arrogantly announces that she always is leading the way.