Miss Bates is a middle-aged single woman who has lived in Highbury all her life, while Mrs. Elton moves to the village after she marries the vicar, Mr. Elton. The two have little in common except that Emma tries to avoid both of them. Both of them are also comic figures that Austen satirizes or pokes fun at because of the way they behave in public.
Miss Bates and her mother, Mrs. Bates, have become poor but were once high-status people in Highbury, as Mr. Bates was the vicar. Miss Bates is seen by the community as somewhat ridiculous because she is an older, poor, single woman, but most particularly because she talks nonstop. Her speeches are running monologues of stream-of-conscious utterances that are impossible to interrupt. However, she knows everyone and is so kindhearted that people indulge her as a harmless spinster.
Mrs. Elton is comic in a different way. Austen pokes fun at her tendency to put on airs and want to be the admired first lady of the village. She is always asking about her lace, always wanting to open dances, and always going on about her relations and friends back in Bristol, such as the Sucklings. She is the rich social climber who strikes a pretentious but always slightly off note, such as when she goes on about Mr. Elton as her lord and master.
Miss Bates and Mrs. Elton are also alike in having a sympathetic streak. Miss Bates is constantly trying to make do with a very low income, while Mrs. Elton is trying to make her way in a strange new village.