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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Harriet's revelation about her love for Knightley makes Emma feel uncomfortable. Emma writes to her friend, requesting her not to come to Hartfield because she wants to avoid any confidential discussion with Harriet. Emma also worries about her own relationship with Knightley. She realizes how she has often opposed Knightley and paid little attention to his advice; but she is also conscious of Knightley's sincere interest in educating her. Still, she cannot entertain a hope of romantic love from him. At the same time, she feels that Harriet is too optimistic about Knightley's affection. She decides to observe the two of them closely when she finds them together. Emma again thinks that marriage is not possible for her because of her duty to her father; but she does not want Knightley to marry either so that she can enjoy his friendship and confidence.
The Westons call on Emma after a visit to their future daughter-in- law, Jane Fairfax. Mrs. Weston explains that Jane feels she has made a mistake in having a secret engagement to Frank. Emma agrees that Jane's love for Frank overruled her good judgment. Emma, however, is sincerely sorry for having upset Jane. Mrs. Weston states that Jane also feels bad about rejecting all of Emma's friendly overtures. Emma thanks Mrs. Weston for giving her such news and wishes Jane lots of happiness. She tells Mrs. Weston that Frank is really lucky to be marrying such an accomplished woman.
After the Westons leave, Emma feels that she has been unjust to Jane. She realizes that if she had followed Knightley's advice and made Jane, instead of Harriet, her friend, she would have been spared the embarrassing situation she now finds herself in. If she had been Jane's friend, Emma would have known that Jane had no attachment to Mr. Dixon; then she would have avoided her rude behavior at the Box Hill picnic.
Emma's mind is filled with gloomy thoughts. She imagines Knightley marrying Harriet and no longer visiting Hartfield; and she thinks about losing Mrs. Weston's companionship since she will probably be going with Jane to Enscombe in Yorkshire. She worries about being left alone.
Jane Austen shows Emma repentant for her rash and vain actions. As she reflects on her mistakes, Emma thinks with a calm mind. She knows that she has disturbed the hierarchical social structure by encouraging Harriet to aspire for persons socially superior to her. She acknowledges that Jane is an accomplished woman, deserving of respect and happiness. She regrets not having listened to Knightley's advice and is sorry that Harriet has seemingly usurped Knightley's affection for her.
As Emma thinks about her future, she pities her own miserable lot. She sees herself abandoned by Knightley and Mrs. Weston and fears she will be left all alone at Hartfield to look after her father. For the first time in the novel, she realizes that she has a strong desire for companionship and considers marriage for herself. There is, however, a conflict between Emma's individual desires and society's prescribed role for her. It is expected that she will sacrifice herself for her father's happiness. It is significant to note that Jane Austen herself did not marry because of her attachment towards her father.
The stormy summer morning gives way to a clear afternoon. Emma goes out in her garden for a walk. After some time, she sees Knightley approaching to join in her walk. He tells Emma that he has returned from London earlier in the morning. Emma tells him about Frank's engagement with Jane. Knightley, however, has already heard the news from Mr. Weston. Emma admits to him that she feels terrible about being blind to the relationship between Frank and Jane, especially since Knightley himself had pointed it out to her. Knightley is touched by her confession and her sad mood; he draws her into his arms. He then presses Emma against his heart and says, "My dearest Emma, time will heal the wound." He assures her that her devotion to her father and her friendships will soon lighten her spirits.
Knightley is happy to learn that Emma is not at all attached to Frank and not upset by his engagement. Emma says that she was a fool to ever be tempted by Frank's gallantry and flattery; as an intellectual, she should have known better. Knightley says that he has a very low opinion of Frank, but he hopes that Jane will be happy with him. He also says that Mrs. Churchill would never have agreed to Frank's marriage to Jane, but Mrs. Churchill's death has made it possible for Frank to reveal their engagement.
Emma suggests that Knightley is envious of Frank. He admits that in some ways he is, for Frank is to marry the woman that he loves. Knightley then tells Emma he has been hiding his own feelings for her for a long time. He again calls her dearest Emma and asks if she would accept his proposal of marriage. Emma is so surprised by his words that she remains silent. Fortunately, Knightley interprets her silence as her acceptance and is overjoyed. Knightley tells Emma, "I cannot make speeches . . . If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more, but you know what I am." He explains to Emma that he had been upset by Frank's flirting with her on Box Hill. He had, therefore, gone to London to collect his thoughts. In London, he saw the happiness of his brother and Isabella and felt sad about his own lonely life. Upon returning home, Knightley realized he wanted to marry, but he had not come to Hartfield with the intention of proposing. It was only after Emma revealed that she had no interest in Frank that he realized he had a chance to make Emma his wife.
Emma thinks of Harriet and feels sorry for the girl's self-deception about Knightley; but Emma is not about to sacrifice Knightley for her friend. She wants Knightley to be her husband.
The mystery of Knightley's sudden visit to London is now solved. He was jealous of Frank's attention to Emma and wanted to get away and think things through. In London, he realized that he was lonely and desired a companion. When he learns from Emma that she has no interest in Frank, Knightley feels comfortable about proposing to this woman for whom he has cared for a long time. Jane Austen treats Knightley's proposal in a most restrained and unromantic manner. While Elton declared his love with a pretentious use of language and gestures, Knightley's declaration of love is not haughty or stiff, but full of natural warmth and feeling. It is obvious that his offer to Emma comes straight from his heart.
Emma, although delighted over the proposal and the thought of loving Knightley, acts in a calm manner, not allowing her heart to control her head. She thinks of the poor Harriet and feels terrible about her situation; but Emma is not about to give up Knightley for Harriet. She has realized that she does not want to spend her life alone or sacrifice marriage to care for her father. Emma has truly given up her romantic fantasies to operate in the real world of life.
Knightley's spontaneous proposal is further proof that Emma is a changed woman. If Emma had remained vain and filled with romantic fancies, Knightley would probably have never imagined Emma becoming his wife. He recognizes her different attitude and wants to marry her. The paring of Emma with Knightley and of Jane with Frank shows that Jane Austen believes in the social hierarchy, where young people do not marry outside their class.