Chapters 32-33 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

Emma and Harriet pay a visit to the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Elton. Harriet is eager to hear Emma’s opinion and compliments the bride’s appearance. Emma agrees with her but suggests that Mrs. Elton got married because she wanted a home and figured this was her best option. Harriet expresses her desire for the happiness of the newly married couple and assures Emma that she has moved on from her feelings for Mr. Elton.

Later, when Emma has Mrs. Elton to herself at Hartfield, she evaluates her character and concludes that she is conceited and ignorant, lacking in good education and perspective. Emma decides Harriet would have made a much better match for Mr. Elton. Mrs. Elton proceeds to make numerous comparisons between Hartfield and her family’s home, Maple Grove.

Mrs. Elton inquires about the social life that Emma experiences in Highbury, but Emma responds by saying that they are not very social and prefer to stay home. Mrs. Elton praises home life but proposes that it should be balanced with a social life. She recommends that Emma visit the town of Bath, believing it would do her father some good, and offers to introduce her to a friend who could help her become part of the best social circle there.

Emma is horrified at the thought of owing anything to Mrs. Elton. She switches the conversation to music and asks Mrs. Elton about her musical abilities. Mrs. Elton denies having any talent but says she has a great passion for music and encourages Emma to form a musical group so that they can play together. Mrs. Elton feels that her musical pursuits may suffer due to her many responsibilities as a married woman. Emma suggests that she might still pursue music despite her new responsibilities but to little avail.

Mrs. Elton redirects the conversation and mentions her encounter with Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley, expressing her admiration for their behavior. When Mrs. Elton departs, Emma reflects on her shortcomings, especially her sense of familiarity with Emma when talking about her acquaintances and establishing a musical group together. To herself, she again asserts Harriet’s superiority.

Mr. Woodhouse expresses regret for not visiting the bride and confesses his distaste for the road leading to the vicarage. Emma finds his neglecting to visit understandable, given his aversion to marriage, but her father insists that it is only common courtesy to visit a bride. 

Emma’s opinion of Mrs. Elton does not improve with time, but as everyone else generally praises the young woman, Emma calls her “very pleasant” and compliments her clothing. 

When Jane Fairfax catches her attention, Mrs. Elton aims to improve her situation, viewing her as a neglected individual whose talents are underappreciated. Therefore, Mrs. Elton proposes a joint effort with Emma to promote and develop Jane. However, Emma does not have to put up with this scheme for long, for Mrs. Elton, discouraged by Emma’s coolness toward her, also develops a cooler disposition toward her. 

As the Eltons’ affection for Jane grows, Emma is surprised that Jane does not refuse them but rather spends a considerable amount of time with them. Emma is further surprised when an invitation from Mrs. Dixon arrives inviting Jane to Ireland, and Jane declines the offer. Emma cannot comprehend why Jane would rather stay in Highbury, nor does she understand why Jane accepts the attentions of the Eltons. 

During a conversation with Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley, the topic of Jane Fairfax arises. Mrs. Weston suggests that Jane spends time with the Eltons not because she particularly enjoys them but because it’s better than remaining at home all the time. After hearing Mr. Knightley speak of Jane, Emma subtly suggests that Mr. Knightley is in love with Jane and plans to marry her. However, Mr. Knightley explains that while he respects Jane, she does not possess the qualities he desires in a spouse. When Mr. Knightley leaves, Emma triumphantly asks Mrs. Weston what she thinks of the prospect of Jane and Mr. Knightley marrying. Despite Mr. Knightley’s denial, Mrs. Weston still feels they could end up together after all. 

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