Chapters 22-24 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 729

New Characters:
Augusta Hawkins: Mr. Elton’s fiancée

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Frank Churchill: Mr. Weston’s son and Mrs. Weston’s stepson

Miss Augusta Hawkins, the intended bride of Mr. Elton, is the focus of Highbury gossip. Townspeople learn that she has money and beauty and feel her well-suited to be the wife of their vicar. Emma cannot hear about either of them without feeling a pain. She considers their coupling a lesson in humility for her and turns her attentions to Harriet.

Though Emma has talked Harriet into being in love, she is having difficulty talking her out of it. The chance encounter with the Martin family and Mr. Elton’s engagement have put Harriet into a flurry of confusion. Matters are worsened when Elizabeth Martin shows up at Mrs. Goddard’s boarding school and drops off a note in Harriet’s absence. Emma decides that Harriet will return the note with a visit, but knows it must be handled delicately.

Though the visit begins coolly, the Martin sisters and Harriet manage to renew the memories of her visit last autumn. Emma puts a halt to the festivities when she pulls up in her carriage to fetch Harriet. On the way home, Emma is so distraught over Harriet’s silence that she stops at Randalls for consolation. Mr. and Mrs. Weston are not at home, but Emma passes their carriage, and they tell her that Frank Churchill will be arriving tomorrow.

Emma is gleefully introduced to Frank by his father who is overcome with joy that his son has come at last. Emma is cautious in her appraisal of Frank, though she observes he is well-bred. He opens with small talk and moves on to flattery. He praises his father, his stepfather, his stepmother, his new stepmother Mrs. Weston, Randalls, Hartfield, and Highbury. Emma wonders if he thinks her as suitable a match for him as she has fancied he would be for her. Because of his acquaintance with Jane Fairfax, Frank inquires about the Bates family with whom she is staying. His father urges him to pay her a call. Mr. Woodhouse offers to let his servant show Frank where the house is. Frank declines, and he and his father set off.

On their second meeting, Emma notes that Frank behaves warmly toward Mrs. Weston, and that his behavior signals his wish that he and Emma become close. They walk toward Highbury and pass the Crown Inn, which Frank envisions as an excellent place for a ball. When Emma questions him about his visit to the Bates house, he is evasive about Jane Fairfax. Emma attempts to draw him into a discussion of Jane’s health, complexion, musical ability, and the possibility of a romance between her and her brother-in-law. Frank remains noncommittal, though completely amiable.

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Latest answer posted June 6, 2010, 2:46 am (UTC)

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When Frank suggests that Emma knows Jane better than he, being her childhood friend, Emma confesses that she has never been close to Jane because she is envious of her talents and finds her too reserved, which suggests to Emma that she must be hiding something. Frank agrees, and Emma feels their like minds are the basis for a strong friendship. Reflecting on Mr. Elton’s small house, Frank announces that because it will be filled with the love of Mr. Elton for his new bride, it is roomy enough. Mrs. Weston finds this amusing since Frank has never lived in a small house. Emma is certain Frank is signaling a willingness to marry early, not for money but for love.

Now that she can no longer match Harriet with Mr. Elton, Emma is determined to control Harriet’s relationship with Robert Martin. She plans every detail of Harriet’s courtesy call on the Martins. When Harriet returns confused and upset, Emma is too fixed on the rightness of her scheme to console her. She fixes instead on the arrival of Frank Churchill because he is fresh and untainted by her disastrous meddling.

To her growing surprise, Emma cannot manipulate Frank Churchill. Here is someone of her own class who often appears to be outmaneuvering her. His language is purposely ambiguous, especially when it concerns Jane Fairfax. Emma cannot penetrate the haze he has created around their relationship. She must content herself to judge Frank however she will, for he is too clever to be tricked into revealing any genuine feelings.

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