Chapters 19-21 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

Emma tries to redirect Harriet’s focus from Mr. Elton by visiting Mrs. and Miss Bates. During the visit, the Bates family reveals that they have received a letter from their niece, Jane Fairfax. Emma encourages Miss Bates to discuss the contents of the letter to avoid having it read aloud. Through their conversation, Emma discovers that Jane Fairfax will be visiting their home instead of accompanying her adopted parents to Ireland.

Emma is interested in the reason for Jane’s visit to Highbury instead of going to Ireland, but Miss Bates only gives a vague response that Jane simply wants to visit. When Miss Bates eventually starts to read the letter, Emma quickly makes an excuse to leave with Harriet.

Information is provided about Jane Fairfax’s upbringing. Her parents passed away while she was young, and she was taken in by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, whose daughter was of a similar age and later wed Mr. Dixon. The Campbells decided to raise Jane to be a governess, and as a result, she was provided with good education and care.

At first, Emma holds negative feelings towards Jane Fairfax and is bitter because she must behave kindly towards her for three months. However, upon meeting her, Emma feels remorseful for her previous animosity towards Jane and decides to exhibit generosity toward her, given her difficult past and limited prospects. Emma even pardons Jane for her supposed involvement with her brother-in-law, Mr. Dixon. Nevertheless, Emma’s initial unfavorable attitude resurfaces by the end of the evening, and she holds onto her grievances against Jane Fairfax.

As Emma converses with Mr. Knightley the next morning, Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax show up and disclose that Mr. Elton is getting married to a Miss Hawkins. The announcement unsettles Emma at first, though she eventually feels amused. After that, she worries only about Harriet’s feelings.

Miss Bates and Jane depart, and shortly after, Harriet arrives. Emma assumes that Harriet appears flushed due to hearing the news of Mr. Elton’s impending marriage. However, Harriet informs Emma that she ran into the Martin family while shopping in Highbury. Although they seemed hesitant to speak to her at first, Mr. Martin was courteous to her. Emma tries to diminish Harriet’s fascination with this interaction by revealing Mr. Elton’s engagement, and Harriet finally expresses curiosity about the mysterious Miss Hawkins. Though she was eager to put the Martins out of Harriet’s mind, Emma is glad the meeting occurred, for it served to soften the blow of Mr. Elton’s engagement. 

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