Chapters 3-5 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Elton: vicar of Highbury and a bachelor
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
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...
(The entire section is 718 words.)