Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
In Emma, Jane Austen tells the story of a young woman described by the narrator of the novel as “having rather too much her own way” and possessing “a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” Although Austen claimed that her heroine was someone “whom no one would like but myself,” Emma Woodhouse has captivated readers and critics, many of whom have acclaimed the novel as Austen’s finest.
The second daughter of one of the ranking families in the village of Highbury, Emma is accustomed to directing the social lives of her reclusive father and other townspeople. Only her father’s good friend Mr. Knightley, a bachelor nearly twice her age, speaks directly and forcefully to Emma about her meddlesome nature and about her misperceptions of others. The marriage of her governess Miss Taylor to local squire Mr. Weston, described in the opening paragraphs of the novel, convinces Emma that she has been a successful matchmaker. She immediately turns her attention to transforming Harriet Smith, a resident at a local boarding school, into a lady worthy of marrying the village’s highly eligible cleric, Mr. Elton. After persuading Harriet that she is too good to marry a tradesman who genuinely loves her, Emma becomes distressed when she learns that Mr. Elton has no affection for Harriet; instead, he has fallen for Emma herself. With deftness and a touch of cruelty, she rebukes the minister, who departs Highbury for an extended...
(The entire section is 529 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Highbury. English village sixteen miles southwest of London. Although Jane Austen says it is a populous place, readers find it quite small indeed. A short walk away from the village center are Ford’s, a clothing and fabric store; a bakery; the Bates apartment, over a place of business; a church and a vicarage; the Crown Inn; and Mrs. Goddard’s school. Less than a mile from Emma’s home is Randalls, a little estate belonging to the Westons. Adjoining Highbury is Donwell and its most important estate, Donwell Abbey, the old-fashioned home of Mr. George Knightley and the center of his large farming enterprise. Located on his land is Abbey Mill Farm.
The novel tells of Emma’s growth into adulthood. The isolated and restricted village in which she lives reflects her own initial isolation. For the first twelve chapters, she never strays far from home, which she shares with her unmarried father. Besides Mr. Knightley, her most frequent visitor is a silly school girl named Harriet Smith. Soon Emma’s horizons begin to expand, until, by the end of the novel, she has learned a great deal about many other people—and herself. This movement is expressed geographically. Sometimes Emma makes journeys from home. She socializes more with the people of Highbury, even attending a party given by her social inferiors. She goes to Randalls on Christmas Eve; she visits Donwell Abbey. More often, however, Emma’s expanding horizons are...
(The entire section is 647 words.)
Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Emma, a romantic comedy of manners, paints a sparkling and amusing picture of genteel village life in Great Britain during the brief Regency period preceding the Victorian period. Marriage and social position are the primary focus of this work as the women characters, faithful to the social dynamics of the time, seek financial and social security through advantageous marriages. Of the many genteel women in the novel, only Emma can choose to stay single without serious financial and social sacrifice. The other unmarried women of the story are either prospective brides or the “unfortunate” ones, such as Jane Fairfax’s aunt Miss Bates, obliged to earn a living looking after others and receiving pity or indifference from most of their neighbors. Though the picture of village life drawn by Jane Austen is filled with humorous scenes and characters, the underlying grim reality of unmarried women’s lives is a sobering one.
Emma clearly understands that marriage is the only answer to her new friend Harriet Smith’s uncertain social position and undecided future. Emma quickly dismisses Harriet’s eager suitor Robert Martin as unacceptable because he lacks sufficient social position to be worthy of her friend; he is merely a hardworking, modest farmer. When Mr. Knightley, Emma’s brother-in-law, points out that Emma has grand plans for a young woman lacking virtually any social position, and in fact one who could be a member of a disreputable...
(The entire section is 686 words.)
Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Emma, considered one of Jane Austen’s finest works, was received with considerable praise and public interest. Even the great novelist of that time, Sir Walter Scott, admired her work for its artistry and elegance. Austen’s novels followed and improved on a tradition begun by the popular writer Fanny Burney (1752-1840), the author of Evelina (1778). This genre of social comedy novel presented women’s stories more naturally than other English novels had. Unlike the popular fantasies of exotic places and melodramatic events, such as the gothic thriller The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), by Ann Radcliffe, Emma is a comic story of rather ordinary events in a typical English village. The characters could be found around many card tables in country houses of those days.
Though the domestic events in novels such as Emma may seem ordinary or even trivial to modern readers, Austen and others were attempting to present a clear and fair picture of the very restricted domestic world women lived in at that time. Women in these novels seem preoccupied with making advantageous marriages simply because marriage was the sole respectable occupation available to well-bred women. Some readers may also criticize Emma for its excessive emphasis on marriage as a calculated means to acquire money and materialistic possessions—houses, land, servants. In truth, these possessions often ruled the marital choices that women...
(The entire section is 411 words.)
In 1801, the first official census was taken in Great Britain. By 1851, the population had doubled due to the decline in infectious diseases, an improved diet made possible by new techniques in farming—especially in cultivating the potato, earlier marriages and larger families.
Though inventions such as James Watts’s steam engine in 1780 fueled the Industrial Revolution and made Britain “the workshop of the world,” the English countryside remained rustic, its inhabitants close-knit and suspicious of anyone outside their village. Cityfolk were watched with a wary eye for their customs were practically foreign to country dwellers.
By 1811, King George III of England, having lost the American colonies, became mentally incapable of discharging his duties. His eldest son was named Prince Regent and succeeded him to the throne in 1820 as George IV. Although a patron of the arts and architecture, the Prince Regent became unpopular as a result of his gluttony and drunkenness. He attempted to divorce his popular wife and became the target of scandal.
The period, known as Regency (1800-1830), is distinctive for its art and architecture, which followed neo-classical (Greek) lines. Painters chose to break with traditional perspective and emulated the flat, silhouetted figures of Greek vase painting, such as John Flaxman’s simple line engravings for editions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
As with all Jane...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. When the story opens, how old is Emma?
2. Why isn’t she married?
3. What are the Woodhouses’ feelings on the day of Miss Taylor’s wedding?
4. Who did Miss Taylor marry?
5. What social position do the Woodhouses occupy in High¬bury?
6. Why doesn’t Mr. Woodhouse think they will ever see Miss Taylor again?
7. What is Mr. Knightley’s connection to the Woodhouses?
8. How does Mr. Knightley think the Woodhouses regard Miss Taylor’s marriage?
9. Why does Mr. Knightley question Emma’s claims that she made the match herself?
10. What does he think of her plans to match Mr. Elton with a wife?
1. At twenty-one, Emma is of marriageable age and has excellent prospects because she is “handsome, clever, and rich with a comfortable home and happy disposition.”
2. Emma’s mother died when she was five, and her sister has married and moved to London, leaving her the mistress of Hartfield. She has made a promise to her father that she will not marry.
3. Emma misses Miss Taylor. She took her mother’s place and raised her, schooled her, and for the last seven years, had been a dear companion and friend. Mr. Woodhouse doesn’t like change of any sort, and matrimony, the “origin of change, was always disagreeable.”
4. Mr. Weston, a widower of “suitable age...
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. How had Mr. and Mrs. Churchill acquired a son?
2. How had Mr. Weston acquired Randalls?
3. How had Frank been brought up?
4. Why did the townspeople of Highbury believe a visit from Frank Churchill was imminent?
5. Why had Mrs. Weston formed a very favorable idea of Frank?
6. What is Miss Taylor’s attitude about the separation of her and Emma?
7. What is Mr. Woodhouse’s reaction to the separation?
8. How do the townspeople tease Mr. Woodhouse?
9. Who is Mr. Perry?
10. What character trait of Mr. Woodhouse is apparent from the last two paragraphs of this chapter?
1. Upon Mrs. Churchill’s death, her brother and sister-in-law, having no children of their own, offered to take over Frank Weston’s upbringing. This was the source of a reconciliation of sorts between Mr. Weston and the Churchills.
2. Upon leaving the militia, Mr. Weston took up a trade and saved enough over the next twenty years to purchase a little estate. He thought Randalls was a suitable house for himself and a wife.
3. The Churchills wealth afforded Frank all the privileges of their class.
4. Now that his father had remarried, the townspeople are sure he will do the proper thing and pay his new mother a visit. Their hopes were strengthened when he wrote her a fine letter welcoming her to...
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Chapters 3-5 Questions and Answers
1. Why did everyone who knew Miss Bates respect her?
2. How is Mrs. Goddard’s school regarded?
3. What is Harriet Smith’s background?
4. What convinces Emma that Harriet is worthy of her efforts?
5. How are the Martins connected to Mr. Knightley?
6. What are some assumptions that Emma makes about Mr. Martin?
7. What does Emma think of farmers in general?
8. How does Emma debunk Mr. Martin?
9. What does Mr. Knightley reveal about Emma’s education?
10. Why does Mr. Knightley say he is interested in Emma?
1. Though the daughter of the former vicar of Highbury was neither rich, clever, nor handsome, she was sweet-tempered and interested in everyone’s well-being. She has earned respect.
2. Her boarding school is valued because girls from modest families could go there to improve themselves a little for a reasonable price. It is not an upper crust school.
3. Her parentage is unknown to her and not a source of particular interest, though it is to Emma.
4. Harriet is obviously taken with everything about Hartfield and Emma. This shows Emma that Harriet has good sense and must be developed and encouraged.
5. They rent a farm from him that is located on the estate of Donwell Abbey. Though Emma knows Mr. Knightley thinks highly of them, that doesn’t...
(The entire section is 403 words.)
Chapters 6-8 Questions and Answers
1. What stands out about Emma’s portfolio of paintings?
2. From this, what is revealed about Emma?
3. What decisions are made about Harriet’s portrait?
4. Why doesn’t Mr. Woodhouse want the background to be out of doors?
5. What convinces Emma that Mr. Elton must be in love with Harriet?
6. How does Emma downplay the letter Mr. Martin sends Harriet?
7. How does Harriet react to Emma’s manipulating her emotions toward Mr. Martin?
8. What small compliment does Mr. Knightley offer Emma?
9. What does Mr. Knightley think of Mr. Martin?
10. Why is Mr. Knightley confident that Mr. Elton will not choose Harriet?
1. Though full of numerous portraits of friends and family, not one of them had been finished.
2. Emma had attempted both art and music and showed spirit and talent for both, but she lacks discipline.
3. Though she’s never finished a portrait, Emma announces that this one will be a watercolor and have a place of honor over the mantelpiece.
4. He thinks it will make the viewer uneasy that she might catch cold.
5. Though he seems too grateful to be running off to London to frame Emma’s painting, Emma convinces herself that he must be in love with Harriet because she is the subject of the portrait.
6. Emma is touched by the...
(The entire section is 366 words.)
Chapters 9-11 Questions and Answers
1. What becomes of Emma’s intention to improve Harriet’s mind?
2. What new scheme does Emma devise to get Harriet and Mr. Elton together?
3. When Mr. Elton sends a riddle, what conditions does he put on it?
4. Why is Mr. Woodhouse convinced that Emma wrote the riddle?
5. How does Emma respond when Harriet wonders why Emma isn’t married?
6. How next does Emma contrive to get Harriet and Mr. Elton together?
7. What ruse does Emma use once they are in Mr. Elton’s house?
8. How is Isabella Knightley portrayed?
9. How is John Knightley portrayed?
10. How does John Knightley show insight?
1. With Emma focusing all her energies on pairing up Harriet and Mr. Elton, their reading never gets past the first few chapters of any book.
2. Emma asks him to contribute “enigmas, charades, or conundrums” to help her and Harriet write a riddle.
3. He sends it under the pretense that it is from a friend, and that it is “not for Miss Smith’s collection,” but rather to be viewed by Emma privately. She immediately gives it to Harriet.
4. Just after Harriet vows to keep the riddle a secret, Emma reads it to her father with her own interpretations. She so dominates the work, Mr. Woodhouse thinks she wrote it.
5. Emma assures Harriet that she has everything she...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapters 12-15 Questions and Answers
1. What does Emma do to soften Mr. Knightley’s attitude toward her when he comes to their house?
2. How much older is Mr. Knightley than Emma?
3. Why was Mr. Woodhouse especially agitated by his son-in-law’s harsh words about Mr. Perry?
4. Why did Harriet wish to return to her boarding school when she became ill?
5. How does John Knightley characterize Mr. Elton?
6. Why does Emma feel drawn to Frank Churchill?
7. How does Mrs. Weston characterize Mrs. Churchill?
8. How does Mr. Elton characterize Emma?
9. Why is Emma so concerned when Mr. Elton joins her in the carriage?
10. What makes their tête-à-tête even more awkward?
1. She takes her baby niece and bounces her on her knee, certain that Mr. Knightley would be moved by such a domestic picture.
2. He is sixteen years her senior and uses that fact to suggest that his experience gives him superior judgment.
3. He had been unconsciously attributing opinions and health theories to Mr. Perry that were, in fact, his own.
4. She wants to be taken care of by Mrs. Goddard, though Emma takes advantage of this opportunity to visit her and reassure her that Mr. Elton will be depressed when he learns she won’t be able to attend the party.
5. When they are alone, he tells her that Mr. Elton is a rational...
(The entire section is 364 words.)
Chapters 16-18 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Emma give the Knightley brothers credit?
2. How does Emma convince herself not to feel anything for Mr. Elton’s open declaration of love for her?
3. What relapse does Emma suffer immediately after swearing off involvement with Harriet’s romantic life?
4. Why is Emma surprised at the contents of Mr. Elton’s note?
5. What does Emma think her father will say to this obvious omission?
6. How do Harriet’s tears affect Emma?
7. What is Emma’s promise to Harriet?
8. What further increases Emma’s discomfort at having been wrong about Mr. Elton’s affections?
9. Why does Mr. Knightley think Frank is lying about not being able to leave Enscombe?
10. What does Mr. Knightley think of the letters Frank writes, which are the object of everyone’s interest and admiration in Highbury?
1. Emma is forced to acknowledge that John Knightley first gave her the idea that Mr. Elton might be in love with her, and his brother warned her that Elton would not marry anyone without money. Both brothers saw his true nature better than she.
2. As mistress of Hartfield, Emma stands to inherit £30,000 (roughly $100,000, at that time). This fact convinces her that Mr. Elton is merely a fortune hunter.
3. Though she is sorry to have led Harriet to think Mr. Elton cared for her, she...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Chapters 19-21 Questions and Answers
1. Why doesn’t Emma visit Mrs. and Miss Bates more often?
2. Why does the visit backfire?
3. What catches Emma’s attention most while Miss Bates is speaking?
4. What fuels her suspicions?
5. At age eighteen, Jane is ready to make her way in the world as a governess; why hasn’t she?
6. Why does Mr. Knightley think Emma does not like Jane?
7. How does Emma try to coax Jane Fairfax into gossiping with her?
8. Why is Mr. Woodhouse certain that Jane Fairfax spent a pleasant evening?
9. How does Mr. Knightley turn that assumption to his advantage?
10. How does Mr. Martin show his regard for Harriet?
1. Mrs. and Miss Bates are charitable women who are called upon by those in need. Emma finds them tiresome and a visit there would put her in danger of associating with needy people who are beneath her.
2. Miss Bates opens the conversation with news of her friends, the Coles, who are friends with Mr. Elton and have heard from him in Bath. Miss Bates jabbers incessantly about Mr. Elton’s visit there. Emma is forced to respond to prevent Harriet from getting a word in.
3. She suspects an affair is going on between Jane Fairfax and her brother-in-law, Mr. Dixon.
4. Jane is a beautiful and accomplished young woman whereas Mrs. Dixon is plain.
5. Having given...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
Chapters 22-24 Questions and Answers
1. What was Mr. Elton’s attitude upon returning to Highbury?
2. How long after Mr. Elton had been introduced to Augusta Hawkins did he propose?
3. What does Emma think of the intended bride of Mr. Elton?
4. What was contained in the note that Elizabeth Martin wrote to Harriet?
5. Why does Harriet lack the heart for a visit to the Martins?
6. How long does Emma decide Harriet shall stay at the Martin farm?
7. Why does Emma regret the Martin’s rank?
8. How does Frank Churchill go overboard in praising Mrs. Weston?
9. Why does Emma think Mr. Knightley is wrong about Frank Churchill?
10. Why does Frank think Emma’s question about how well he knew Jane Fairfax at Weymouth is an unfair one?
1. Once Mr. Elton had determined to take a wife, he was released from his unrequited feelings for Emma, and he came back gay and self-satisfied. He also dropped his discomfort around young ladies and behaved with confidence.
2. On the rebound from Emma, he began pursuing Miss Hawkins with determined vigor. An hour after they were introduced, he began courting her. Three weeks later, they are engaged.
3. Emma thinks that other than the £30,000 she stands to inherit, Augusta Hawkins is inferior to Harriet. She bases this conclusion on town gossip as she has never met the intended.
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Chapters 25-26 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mrs. Weston’s reaction to Frank’s going to London to get his hair cut?
2. What is Mr. Knightley’s reaction?
3. What is Emma’s reaction?
4. Who are the Coles?
5. Why is Emma sorry to have received an invitation to their party?
6. What changes her mind about going?
7. Why is Emma pleased to see Mr. Knightley’s coach in front of her on the road to the Cole house?
8. How does Mrs. Cole evidence good manners?
9. What does Emma discover was the real reason for Mr. Knightley bringing his carriage?
10. Who does Mrs. Weston guess might have sent the pianoforte?
1. Though she says that young people must have “their little whims,” she clearly does not approve.
2. He says it proves that Frank is just the “trifling, silly fellow” he took him for.
3. Emma regards this behavior as an “unfortunate fancy,” and the only blemish on an otherwise spotless impression she has of Frank. But the blemish bothers her.
4. The Coles are a family whose fortunes and style of living are on the rise. Their success bothers Emma because they are not as genteel as she thinks they should be.
5. Emma is determined to turn the Coles down before she is asked. So smug is she about her status, she feels certain that the Woodhouses should have been the first to...
(The entire section is 406 words.)
Chapters 27-29 Questions and Answers
1. Why isn’t Emma satisfied with Harriet’s praise for her musicianship?
2. Why does Frank think he shouldn’t go to the Bates’ house to view the pianoforte?
3. How is Mr. Woodhouse’s name brought into Miss Bates’ monologue?
4. What does Emma notice that alters her opinion of Jane Fairfax?
5. Why does Frank say he wants to hold another ball?
6. What does Emma perceive about Frank’s nature when they are sizing up the rooms at Randalls?
7. How does Frank assure Mr. Woodhouse that no one will catch cold at the Crown Inn?
8. What does Mr. Woodhouse think of Frank?
9. Why does Emma protest calling in Miss Bates?
10. What is Frank’s response to Emma?
1. Emma knows Harriet is easily led and prone to pander to Emma, telling her more what she wants to hear than what is true in order to preserve the friendship.
2. Frank thinks if there’s something wrong with the instrument, he won’t be able to pretend liking to hear it. Emma is just as certain that he can be as “insincere as your neighbors, when it is necessary.” She thinks Frank fully capable of false flattery.
3. Miss Bates knows Mr. Woodhouse’s peculiarities well. She let slip that she served her company baked apples that had been twice-baked and, knowing Mr. Woodhouse’s belief that they should be baked...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapters 30-31 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Emma certain that Mr. Knightley doesn’t love Jane Fairfax?
2. Why does Frank say his mother is ill?
3. What does Emma learn about Frank’s visit to the Bates’ house?
4. What statement of Frank’s almost cuts through the layers of politeness he normally displays?
5. What does Emma think Frank is about to reveal before Mr. Weston and Mr. Woodhouse come into the room?
6. How does Emma interpret Frank’s remarks about her?
7. What does Emma tell Harriet to do?
8. How does Emma justify her friendship with Harriet?
9. How does Emma justify her father’s behavior?
10. What is Emma plotting as her next move to match up Harriet?
1. Mr. Knightley expresses his total lack of interest for the ball. Then Emma learns that Jane Fairfax is looking forward to it. She takes small consolation that if Mr. Knightley won’t show up there for Emma, neither will he for Jane. She thinks this proves Mrs. Weston is wrong about them.
2. Though Frank returns to Enscombe promptly, he suspects his mother’s needing him is calculated. He relates that she is never ill “but for her own convenience.”
3. Emma takes time to make a cutting remark about Miss Bates and learns that she wasn’t home when Frank paid his call. That left only deaf elderly Mrs. Bates and her niece, Jane Fairfax....
(The entire section is 476 words.)
Chapters 32-33 Questions and Answers
1. What is Harriet’s assurance to Emma upon leaving the Eltons’ for the first time?
2. What is a barouche-landau?
3. How does Mrs. Elton correct Emma?
4. What is Emma surprised to hear from Mrs. Elton about Mr. Knightley?
5. Why does Emma tell her father it was acceptable for him not to have paid the Eltons a courtesy call?
6. What is Mr. Elton’s apparent reaction to his wife?
7. How does Mrs. Elton’s behavior toward Emma change?
8. Why does Emma think Jane might have declined Mrs. Dixon’s invitation to Ireland?
9. Why does Mrs. Weston think Jane has become friendly with the Eltons?
10. Why does Mr. Knightley think she has?
1. Harriet goes to great lengths to keep from hurting Emma’s feelings. She fears Emma will take offense if Harriet continues to mope over losing Mr. Elton, so she pronounces herself free of any deep feelings for him, especially since he has married the charming woman he deserves.
2. Mrs. Elton’s brother-in-law is a magistrate with money and holdings in a nearby county. He owns a horse-drawn carriage that seats four, called a barouche-landau. Mrs. Elton mentions it often and, because it belongs to a member of her family, uses it as a status symbol.
3. Mrs. Elton is revealed as a woman who loves to talk. She barely allows Emma a word. When Emma...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapters 34-36 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Emma relieved Harriet declines her dinner invitation?
2. Why does Emma think Jane will never like her?
3. Why does Jane decline Mrs. Elton’s offer?
4. Why does Emma take Jane’s arm to go into dinner?
5. How does Jane respond to Mrs. Elton’s suggestion that she secure a position with a family of means?
6. How does Mrs. Elton treat Mr. Woodhouse?
7. Why is John Knightley surprised that Mr. Weston would show up so late in the evening?
8. Where is Enscombe?
9. Why does Mr. Weston say that Mrs. Churchill has no claims on arrogance?
10. Why does John Knightley think his boys might be in Emma’s way?
1. Harriet is still embarrassed by the failed attempt at matchmaking with her and Mr. Elton. Any social situation where she might encounter him would be extremely awkward for her. Emma knows this and feels more comfortable herself if Harriet isn’t around.
2. Though she has known Jane from girlhood, Emma has never sought her out. Once Mr. Knightley has noted her failure, Emma resolves to befriend her and to show her greater attention.
3. Jane insists she enjoys her early morning walk and doesn’t want anyone else going to get her letters. She abruptly changes the subject by extolling the virtues of the postal system.
4. Emma has said she wants to be friends...
(The entire section is 571 words.)
Chapters 37-39 Questions and Answers
1. What is Emma’s reaction to the news of Frank Churchill’s return to Highbury?
2. Why is Mr. Weston especially thrilled that the Churchill family is moving closer to Highbury?
3. What fault does Emma find with Mr. Weston?
4. Why does Mrs. Elton demand that Frank Churchill be her partner?
5. What does Emma notice about Frank’s behavior?
6. What does Emma observe about Mr. Knightley?
7. What can be inferred from Mr. Elton’s behavior?
8. Why does Emma say it would be proper for Isabella and John to dance together?
9. Why couldn’t Harriet escape the encroaching gypsies?
10. How did Frank happen to there at that moment?
1. Emma is agitated that Frank is returning because now she will have to find a way to keep him from declaring his love. Certain that she no longer cares for him and certain that he is carrying the torch for her, Emma wants to avoid embarrassing him with a refusal.
2. Mr. Weston hopes that Frank is in love with Emma. He imagines a marriage between the two of them would mean Frank would settle in Highbury, where his natural father wants him. Emma doesn’t want to be a figure of Mr. Weston’s imagination.
3. At Mr. Weston’s insistence, Emma came early to the ball. She thought he wanted her opinion of the room, but they are soon joined by hordes of...
(The entire section is 593 words.)
Chapters 40-42 Questions and Answers
1. Why was Emma ashamed at the sight of the court plaister?
2. Why does Emma think Harriet shouldn’t throw out both mementos?
3. Why is the name of the someone Emma and Harriet speak of never mentioned?
4. Why does Frank say he dreamed about Mr. Perry’s new carriage?
5. What does Miss Bates reveal in her monologue?
6. What was the first word that Frank scrambled?
7. How does Jane stop the game?
8. Why is Emma eager to go to Box Hill before the party takes place there?
9. Why does Emma say Frank will never go to Switzerland?
10. How does Emma reply to Frank’s complaint that he is sick of England?
1. Harriet has kept the court plaister (medicinal putty) as a memento of Mr. Elton. On the day she asked Harriet to give him some for his cut finger, Emma was carrying some herself. She pretended not to so Harriet could nurse his finger and receive his gratitude. Emma now regrets the deception.
2. Ever the pragmatist, Emma allows Harriet to purge herself of past feelings for Mr. Elton by throwing away the broken pencil. She stops short of allowing her to throw the court plaister in the fire, calling her attention to its general usefulness. Emma’s practicality can’t keep Harriet from performing her ritual.
3. Though Emma is certain Harriet is referring to Frank Churchill here,...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Chapters 43-45 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Emma beginning to suspect that Frank’s flirtations are fake?
2. Why does Mr. Knightley question Emma about the game Frank proposes?
3. How does Emma receive Frank’s request that she choose a wife for him?
4. How does Emma first respond when Mr. Knightley accuses her of having hurt Miss Bates’s feelings?
5. Why is Emma so glad to be playing backgammon with her father?
6. What is the atmosphere in the Bates’ house when Emma arrives?
7. How does Emma contrast Mrs. Churchill and Jane Fairfax?
8. Why does Emma blush when her father brings up her visit to the Bates’ house?
9. Why is Emma offended that Jane won’t see her?
10. How does Emma feel knowing that Jane Fairfax seems resolved not to accept any kindness from her?
1. Frank is perpetually showering Emma with flattery. She is beginning to wonder how much he really cares for her since he showed up so late to the strawberry party. She can’t reconcile his display of adoration today with his being so cross with her yesterday. If he cares so much, why did he have to be talked into coming to Box Hill to be with her?
2. Mr. Knightley suspects Frank is a phony who is making moves on two women at once. In an attempt to inject a little truth, he asks Emma if she is “sure that she would like to hear what we are all thinking...
(The entire section is 631 words.)
Chapters 46-47 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mrs. Weston’s response to the secret engagement?
2. What is Emma’s response?
3. What is Emma’s concern for the family that was to employ Jane?
4. Why does Emma blush when the name Dixon is uttered?
5. What is Emma referring to with her quote, “the world is not their’s, nor the world’s law?”
6. Why do Mr. Knightley’s prophetic words, “Emma, you have been no friend to Harriet Smith” haunt her?
7. What other mistake did Emma make when she assumed Harriet and she were talking about Frank Churchill, not Mr. Knightley?
8. What two incidents convince Harriet that Mr. Knightley has singled her out for his affections?
9. How does Emma interpret Mr. Knightley’s inquiring as to the state of Harriet’s affections?
10. What are Emma’s regrets about Robert Martin?
1. Mr. and Mrs. Weston have made no secret that they wished Frank would marry Emma. Mrs. Weston says part of his behavior cannot be excused, because she watched him flirt with Emma for the past six months. Such duplicity is difficult to forgive, even if Frank Churchill is her stepson.
2. To avoid hurting Mrs. Weston any more, Emma tells her that early in their acquaintance, she was attracted to Frank, but for the past three months has been immune to him.
3. Emma cannot believe Jane would leave...
(The entire section is 607 words.)
Chapters 48-49 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Emma say that Mr. Knightley has tried to improve her and wanted her to do right “as no other creature had at all shared?”
2. Why would Emma be content if Mr. Knightley stayed single?
3. Why does Emma banish Harriet from Hartfield?
4. Why does Emma exclaim “Poor girl!” in referring to Jane Fairfax?
5. What contributed to Jane Fairfax’s burden during her secret engagement?
6. Why does Emma think Mr. Knightley is neither cheerful and not communicative when he returns from London?
7. Why does Mr. Knightley call Frank an “abominable scoundrel?”
8. Why does he refer to him as “a favorite of fortune?”
9. Why does Emma skirt the topic of Mr. Knightley’s envy?
10. What event triggered Mr. Knightley’s departure for London?
1. Emma knows very well that she is spoiled and indulged. Her father can find no fault with her, and her governess, Miss Taylor, now Mrs. Weston, never enforced any discipline or enlarged her mind to any degree. Everyone in her immediate circle yields to Emma except Mr. Knightley.
2. Emma knows she can’t control Harriet anymore. She can’t tell her not to marry whomever she chooses, and Harriet has her hopes pinned on Mr. Knightley. Emma has never been able to control him, so the best she can hope for is that he will choose neither of them,...
(The entire section is 584 words.)
Chapters 50-52 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Emma say of her father, “Could he have seen the heart, he would have cared very little for the lungs?”
2. Why doesn’t Emma want to read the letter from Frank Churchill?
3. What fact comes to light about Jane Fairfax from the letter?
4. What does Frank think about the Eltons?
5. What does Mr. Knightley think of Frank’s reference to Emma?
6. Why does this make Emma blush?
7. What are Mr. Knightley’s final thoughts on Frank Churchill?
8. Why was Isabella Knightley eager to have Harriet visit?
9. Why is Mrs. Elton so happy when Emma comes to visit Jane?
10. How soon does Jane expect to marry Frank?
1. Mr. Woodhouse is oblivious to the feelings between his daughter and Mr. Knightley. When Mr. Knightley comes in, Mr. Woodhouse worries his friend might have caught cold, but fails to see the love between them.
2. Emma has gone from being attracted to Frank to deploring him to forgiving him. She now understands better what he did for love, because she has done a few things herself. Now that she has a love life of her own, his current state doesn’t interest her.
3. Jane Fairfax swallowed her pride and denied her nature when she went along with Frank’s plan for a secret engagement. But she did not go quietly. She could not sit by and watch Frank seem to care for...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapters 53-55 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Emma say she can never call Mr. Knightley “George”?
2. Why does Emma have such a hard time persuading her father to give his consent to her marriage?
3. How long do Mr. Knightley and Emma think it will be before the news is all over Highbury?
4. Why do the Eltons respond to the match between Mr. Knightley and Emma as they do?
5. Why does Emma lean into her workbasket to conceal her face when Mr. Knightley tells her that Harriet accepted Mr. Martin’s proposal?
6. Why isn’t Mr. Knightley surprised at Harriet’s agreeing to marry Robert Martin?
7. Why does Emma forgive Frank so readily?
8. How does Frank show that he is not much changed by his secret engagement being brought to light?
9. What is the secret of Harriet’s birth?
10. What does Mrs. Elton think of the wedding?
1. Calling Mr. Knightley by his first name is an intimacy Emma doesn’t feel entitled to yet. She promises to call him by his Christian name on the day they are married, anticipating their inevitable union.
2. Emma tries to persuade her father that since Mr. Knightley visits nearly every day, things wouldn’t vary greatly once they were married. Mr. Woodhouse uses the same argument back at her. He reasons that since Mr. Knightley visits nearly every day now, why does she need to marry him?
3. Once the...
(The entire section is 614 words.)
Mary Lascelles points out that in Emma Jane Austen has perfected a narrative technique of "self-effacement" that allows her to control and direct the reader's attention entirely unobtrusively. We never suspect that "our attention is being manipulated" (Jane Austen and Her Art), and she uses the buildup of the strain in the relationship between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax as an example, noting how Frank misses the hint contained in her statement about people of strong character being able to rid themselves of deleterious acquaintances. As in her other novels, the artistry and precision in the creation of character and use of language are a delight. Another critic cites Emma as the novel which has the most prismatic treatment of character, calling it "the novel of character," with Emma of course being the chief character, and the object of the plot "the gradual humiliation of self-conceit" in Emma. People who bother to dislike Emma, he argues, are missing the point: She is "simply a figure of fun,... whom we both love and laugh at." Aided by Austen's masterful use of irony, we at once see Emma's follies and deficiencies and admire her outgoing spirit, warmth, and open nature, a quality which Knightley finds present in Emma and wanting in Jane Fairfax. Austen's brilliant use of foil characters and lesser characters to leak information about major ones add to our sense of the complex treatment of the main character. Walton Litz notes...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Emma is admired by many readers for its vivid, complex characters, its artistry, its sense of play, and also a sense of the limits of play. Although Emma's machinations drive the plot, she is not Machiavellian— there is no apparent self-interest in her, but rather a misdirected desire to fix things. Her delight in arranging and rearranging other people's lives is checked not just by the external force of Mr. Knightley and her victims' own sense of who they really are, but her own innate sense of right and wrong. She harms Harriet Smith, but has not meant to, she hurts Miss Bates, but is very contrite. She stirs up feelings and trouble not just in others but in herself, becoming vulnerable to Frank Churchill and ultimately to her own feelings for Knightley.
Her manipulative nature makes her appear superficial, but she is not. She is diametrically opposed to Jane Fairfax not just because of their differing stations in life, but because she has the freedom to fail and recover from failures. She is the dynamic force against which other characters, even Knightley, measure themselves and their values. Provocative questions for discussion can center on Emma and the other female characters, on Emma's complex relationship to Knightley, and on the way her misdirected efforts expose problems in the social world she inhabits. Once again, the author's narrative skill and masterful use of irony should be examined for their role in the creation of such dynamic...
(The entire section is 739 words.)
The dominant social danger explored in Emma is the propensity exhibited by the heroine to control others by manipulating their social lives. While we have seen the same tendency in some of Jane Austen's calculating villains, Emma's manipulations are naive, although sometimes just as hurtful. For example, she influences the illegitimate daughter of a man whom we find out to be a tradesman at the novel's end, Harriet Smith, to reject an earnest and appropriate suitor, Robert Martin, for the socially unattainable and inappropriate Mr. Elton, risking the destruction of two and possibly three characters' chances for happiness. In addition to this incident Emma also manipulates the naive and gullible Harriet in other ways. Harriet is only seventeen and looks up to Emma for guidance and lessons in manners. As the single, attractive unmarried daughter of a well-to-do hypochondriac widower who has just lost his daughter's caregiver and governess to marriage, Emma has almost free rein to practice her wiles, and her efforts and their effects are measured against the built-in social injustices that we see in all of Austen's novels: unequal distribution of wealth, the compromised financial and social position of women, the guilt by association suffered by so-called natural children, parental neglect, and the snobbery and superficiality of the socially well-placed that compound the sufferings of all marginalized citizens.
Countering Emma's machinations and...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Austen's erudition as the daughter of an educator and an avid reader of novels, and her blending of the two traditions, rooted in Richardson and Fielding, of the sentimental novel and the comedy of manners has been noted in the discussion of Pride and Prejudice (see separate entry). Certainly the manipulative heroine, or villain, was nothing new in her day, but certainly Emma's unique combination of big heart and machinating mind were. Ian Watt cites Fanny Burney as a predecessor, but notes that Emma's originality lies in her ability to allot comic aggression, exhibited only by villains or rogues in older literary traditions, especially stage comedy, to good or potentially good characters. I have noted above how Emma's machinations help move the plot; she of course is a developing character who becomes less self-centered as the novel progresses. Watt goes on to note that evils in Austen are characteristically the result not of intentional but inadvertent behavior ("Jane Austen and the Tradition of Comic Aggression" from an address delivered to the Jane Austen Society in San Francisco, October 10, 1981, printed in Persuasions, No. 3, Dec. 16, 1981; rept. in Emma, Norton Critical Edition, Macmillan, 1993, 414—416).
Other critics identify the uniqueness of Emma in her assumption of authority usually given to males. Her presumption is not chastised as completely as it might be in a more didactic novel, as Claudia Johnson suggests...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
An early, unfinished novel "The Watsons" is believed by some critics to be an early form of Emma, but the similarity appears to me to be mainly in the name. First, as David Hopkinson points out, Austen abandoned "The Watsons" ("The Watsons," in J. David Grey, A. Walton Litz, and Brian Southam, eds., The Jane Austen Companion, Macmillan 1986, 394–398; 395). Secondly, the heroine is very unlike Emma Woodhouse, although she does have character and vitality. She rescues a younger boy, Charles Blake, from a humiliating experience of rejection at a dance. She is decidedly not manipulative like Emma, although she does have an invalid father. Emma Watson is a sort of patient Griselde type. The novel's plot is like a reverse Mansfield Park: Emma Watson is forced to move from a household of privilege to poorer circumstances—a house with only two servants—unlike Fanny Price who moves from poverty to wealth. Her incompatibility with her noisy self-serving family give her more affinity to Elizabeth Bennett (indeed the 1804 date of the Watson's makes it more likely an ancillary study for the revision of First Impressions into Pride and Prejudice, or perhaps even a sketch for a later heroine, Ann Elliott of Persuasion). To be sure, there are gatherings at balls but these are features in all of Austen's works.
Prior works by Austen all share features with Emma—balls, outings, foolish characters, some verging on...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
There have been six motion picture adaptations of Emma and one sequel. The best of the recent film versions of the novel are the 1996 version starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam (directed and written by Douglas McGrath), and the 1995 Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone. The 1996 A & E version starring Kate Beckinsale is truer to the original novel than the first two. I find the BBC version overly long, less well-cast, acted, and designed than the above three. There are also 1972, 1960, and 1948 versions which I have not examined. In addition to the numerous film adaptations, there is one sequel to Emma, Jane Fairfax, by Naomi Royde Smith (London 1940). Marilyn Sachs argues that "it is not so much a sequel as another view of Emma," because Jane Fairfax is the central character.
Douglas McGrath, writer and director of the 1996 version, supported by a brilliant cast, has done a masterful job. Emma is played by Gwyneth Paltrow, Mr. Knightley by Jeremy Northam, Jane Fairfax by Polly Walker, Frank Churchill by Ewan McGregor, Mr. Woodhouse by Denys Hawthorne, Harriet Smith by Toni Collette, Mr. Martin by Edward Woodall, Mr. Elton by Alan Cumming, Mrs. Elton by Juliet Stevenson, Miss Bates by Sophie Thompson, her mother by Phyllida Law, Mrs. Goddard by Kathleen Byron", Mr. John Knightley by Brian Capron, and his wife Isabella by Karen Westwood.
The film follows the book faithfully for the most part, opening with the...
(The entire section is 2137 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Austen, Jane. Emma: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews, and Criticism. Edited by Stephen M. Parrish. New York: W. W. Norton, 1972. An excellent beginning for the student first reading Emma, this collection brings together the definitive text, the background materials that Austen may have used, and important critical articles. A selected bibliography is included.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Jane Austen’s “Emma.” New York: Chelsea, 1987. In this representative selection of criticism, Austen scholars focus on aspects such as Emma’s imagination and Austen’s power of understatement. Also includes consideration of Emma in terms of feminist literary criticism. Index and bibliography.
Burrows, J. F. Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1968. A detailed study of the novel considering important critical interpretations and the use of language and comic style. A selected bibliography is included.
DiPaolo, Marc. Emma Adapted: Jane Austen’s Heroine from Book to Film. New York: P. Lang, 2007. This work offers an enlightening look at several film adaptations of Emma and the ways in which they differ from and are similar to the novel. To do this, DiPaolo categorizes the adaptations by their genre and purpose, and discusses the statements that the...
(The entire section is 576 words.)