Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 718

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Mr. Elton: vicar of Highbury and a bachelor

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Mrs. and Miss Bates: widow and daughter of the former vicar

Mrs. Goddard: headmistress of a boarding school

Harriet Smith: student of Mrs. Goddard

Mr. Robert Martin: tenant farmer of Abbey Mill

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

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The Woodhouse’s inner circle of friends includes the Westons, Mr. Knightley, and Mr. Elton. The outer circle includes Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard. Miss Bates is a spinster occupied with the care of her elderly mother. Mrs. Goddard is a motherly woman who, like the others, would gladly leave the comfort of her home to spend an evening at the Woodhouse’s gossiping, playing cards, and eating supper.

A letter arrives from Mrs. Goddard asking Emma if she could bring a student, Harriet Smith, with her this evening. Emma is pleased to include her because Harriet, though beneath her socially, is blessed with beauty and manners and has always acted grateful to be admitted to Hartfield. Upon her visit, Emma begins hatching a scheme to influence Harriet and advance her socially. Emma displays her best manners toward her during the meal. Mr. Woodhouse is torn between his love of hospitality and his belief that supper is unhealthy. Harriet goes away delighted with having been treated so warmly by Emma.

Emma loses no time encouraging Harriet to be her close companion. Certain that she can be of use to Harriet, she encourages her to talk about her recent visit to Abbey Mill, the farm home of a girlfriend from school. Upon hearing details of the visit, Emma is dismayed to learn that Mr. Martin, the girlfriend’s brother, is a bachelor and fond of Harriet. He even traveled three miles to bring her walnuts because she likes them.

Emma advises Harriet against getting drawn into the Martin family because she doesn’t want any entanglements to stand in the way of her getting established into good society. The next day, they run into Mr. Martin on the road. Though Emma allows that he behaved with respect and looked like a sensible man, she tells Harriet that he is plain and lacks gentility. She compares him to Mr. Elton, whom she holds up as a model gentleman. Emma reflects that though Mr. Elton doesn’t suit her taste, he would be the perfect match for Harriet. Emma thinks if she was impressed by Mr. Martin’s riding around to get her walnuts, she will be awed by Mr. Elton’s slightest attention.

Mr. Knightley pays a call on Mrs. Weston and begins quarreling with her about Emma. He is certain her friendship with Harriet is a bad thing. Mrs. Weston protests. She feels that wanting to improve Harriet will make Emma improve herself. Mr. Knightley points out that nobody has ever made Emma do anything she didn’t want and calls her spoiled. Mrs. Weston defends Emma’s character, assuring him that since she left their household, Emma has obeyed her every wish. Knightley remains convinced that Harriet’s unabashed hero worship of Emma will not encourage her to change and that once Harriet is used to the comfort of Hartfield, she will be uncomfortable with her own class.

Mrs. Weston tries to steer Mr. Knightley’s attention to Emma’s physical beauty, which he admits she possesses without vanity, though she is vain in other ways. He declares that it would do Emma good to be in love with someone who did not return her love.

The social life of the Woodhouses is more fully drawn when their friends are introduced. In reaching outside her social circle to befriend Harriet, Emma reveals the irony of her character. Emma encourages Harriet to talk, but is clearly dissatisfied with the level of her conversation. She promotes a match between Harriet and Mr. Elton, even though Harriet is clearly on the verge of a love affair with Mr. Martin.

Though Emma has the clout and cleverness to take on any project, she squanders her resources on a simple, subordinate girl who is naive to her schemes. Harriet is an amusing project to Emma, and only Mr. Knightley sees the inherent danger in the friendship. Her former governess has been blinded by her beauty and cleverness for so long, she cannot see any fault in her.

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Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis


Chapters 6-8 Summary and Analysis