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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Several days after Mrs. Churchill's death, Mr. Weston calls at Hartfield to ask Emma to come to Randalls, for his wife wants to see her. Upon arriving at Randalls, Emma finds Mrs. Weston much perturbed, for Frank has told her and her husband about his engagement to Jane Fairfax. He has been engaged since October, but has kept it a secret from the Campbells, the Dixons, the Churchills, and the Bates. Emma feels foolish because of her conversations with Frank linking up Jane with Mr. Dixon and for her belief that Frank had an interest in Harriet. She does not approve of Frank's secret engagement and cannot forgive him for his ungentlemanly conduct towards her and Harriet under the circumstances. Emma, however, assures Mrs. Weston that she is not personally affected by Frank's engagement, for she has no interest in him, a fact that makes Mrs. Weston feel much better. Mrs. Weston tells Emma that both she and her husband had desired a romance between Frank and Emma and believed that an attachment between them really existed.
Emma remembers Frank's flirtatious behavior with her in the presence of the woman to whom he was secretly engaged. She thinks Jane must have felt humiliated and cannot understand her submissiveness. Emma cannot forgive Frank for his deceitfulness and says he lacks integrity of character. Mrs. Weston tries to defend him. Emma argues that Frank has even allowed Jane to accept a job as a governess, but Mrs. Weston tells Emma that Frank did not know about Jane's decision. In fact, it was this decision that made Frank confess his engagement to Mr. Churchill and seek his acceptance. Since Mr. Churchill has given his consent to Frank, the Weston's will not oppose the engagement.
Mrs. Weston excuses Jane for her conduct, blaming it on her situation in life. Emma is not so generous, saying Jane cannot be excused for hiding the engagement. When she sees Mr. Weston, however, she congratulates him warmly for gaining a lovely and accomplished daughter.
Frank has finally decided to make his engagement public because Jane has accepted the job as a governess, and he does not want her to carry through with her plans. The revelation does much to clear up the mysterious behavior of both Frank and Jane during the previous chapters. The stress that Jane has been under trying to keep her engagement a secret obviously has contributed greatly to her declining health.
Jane Austen treats the sensational event of Frank's engagement by having Mrs. Weston and Emma discuss it. Since they learned of the engagement, the Weston's have been worried about Emma, who they think will be deeply affected by the news. They want to tell her themselves, which is why Mr. Weston has brought her to Randalls. They are greatly relieved when Emma tells them that she has no romantic interest in Frank.
Emma's behavior in this chapter is impressive. She admits her error in judgment about Frank and Jane, and she openly admits that Frank's first visit to Highbury stimulated her romantic fancy. She also judges Frank correctly, saying that he lacks character for trying to involve Emma emotionally when he was already engaged to Jane. Most importantly, Emma feels genuinely sorry for Jane, who has been subjected to humiliation by her fiancé.
Emma realizes why Jane has refused any help from her; she obviously viewed Emma as a rival for the affections of Frank. Emma is also tormented by the thought of informing Harriet about Frank's engagement, for she again feels guilty for encouraging her friend to be interested in a man who is socially superior to her. When she approaches Harriet about the subject, her friend reveals that Mr. Weston has already told her of Frank's engagement. Emma is surprised at Harriet's cheerful spirits.
Harriet comments that Emma must have guessed Jane and Frank's attachment since she can see into everybody's heart. Emma, in true modesty, tells Harriet that she has begun to doubt her own talents. She assures Harriet that she would not have encouraged her to care about Frank if she had guessed his involvement with Jane. Harriet confesses that she has never had an interest in Frank. Her admiration is for Knightley, who rescued her from Elton's affronts at the dance. Emma is shocked at this news and admits to herself that she has made another serious mistake.
Harriet asks for Emma's help in winning Knightley since she knows him so well. A jealous Emma asks Harriet if Knightley has returned her affection. When Harriet claims that he has, Emma feels a pierce in her heart. She herself remembers that Knightley has, in deed, praised Harriet for being free from affectation and full of generous and honest feelings. Now Emma is forced to be honest about her own feelings; finally she acknowledges to herself that she wants to marry Knightley. Emma brings up Robert Martin to Harriet, hoping that her friend will still show an interest in him. Harriet, however, says that she cannot like Martin now. She feels she deserves someone of Knightley's caliber. The entire situation, filled with deep irony, clearly affects Emma. When Harriet leaves, Emma says she wishes she had never seen the girl.
Emma's true growth is seen in this chapter. She feels humiliated over all the blunders she has committed. Out of arrogance, she has tried to arrange the destinies of others. She also feels terrible about the situation with Harriet; she blames herself for turning Harriet into a vain girl with false hopes of marrying Knightley. When Emma analyzes herself, however, she knows for sure that she loves Knightley and is shocked to realize that subconsciously she has always thought him to be superior to Frank. She understands that her romantic fancies have completely deluded her, making it impossible for her to know her own heart. She has been so busy worrying above the romances of other people that she has not had time to accept her own emotions.
Jane Austen is a master at character development. She analyzes the thoughts and feelings of her characters to make the reader understand and appreciate the working of the human mind. Emma looks at herself and accepts the mistakes of her self-delusion and romantic fancies. She also acknowledges that she has been vain and domineering, especially in relationship to Harriet. Ironically, it has all backfired on Emma, for Harriet is now her rival for the love of Knightley. Emma finds herself caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, she feels that Knightley will surely marry her since they are friends and social equals; on the other hand, Harriet has given her proofs of Knightley's interest in her. Although Emma is terribly upset by the dilemma, she now has enough self-control to hide her emotion from Harriet.