Emma Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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Although Emma compliments Harriet, Emma also shows that she feels superior to Harriet. Describe one example from the text where Emma reveals this irony.

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Emma does find Harriet's plump, blond-haired, blue-eyed prettiness appealing and also likes Harriet's pliable personality, which eagerly goes along with all Emma has to say and all that Emma wishes to do. However, Emma feels superior to her friend because she, Emma, is wealthier and of a higher social status.

Several examples of Emma showing her sense of superiority to Harriet occur during the episode of the charade (riddle) that Mr. Elton supplies. Emma thinks the charade is part of Mr. Elton's wooing of Harriet, not realizing the clergyman is actually courting her, Emma. When she reads the line in the charade that says "thy [your] ready wit the word will soon supply," Emma has the following derisive thought:

Humph—Harriet's ready wit! All the better. A man must be very much in love, indeed, to describe her so.

In other words, Emma is saying that she thinks Harriet is quite unintelligent. This is ironic, given how clueless Emma herself is about who Mr. Elton actually wants to marry.

Emma also looks down on Harriet's choice of Robert Martin as a husband, feeling she has the right to interfere and "guide" her friend to reject this eminently suitable suitor. Emma may flatter Harriet, but she has no intention of following what Harriet's wishes might be as regards her choice of a husband. Emma absolutely feels she knows what Harriet should want or need better than Harriet does herself.

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