Chapters 34-36 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

Summary
Emma organizes a dinner party for the Eltons because she doesn’t want to be perceived as resenting them. However, when John Knightley and his two sons unexpectedly propose a visit to Mr. Woodhouse, the seating plans change, and Emma is dismayed that she will have to sit across from her brother-in-law, who is not very talkative. 

Instead of merely talking to his brother, John Knightley engages in conversation with Jane Fairfax during the dinner party, and they speak of Jane’s walk to the post office in the rain earlier that day. Mr. Woodhouse shows concern for Jane’s health when he hears of her having been out in the rain, and Mrs. Elton and Mrs. Weston kindly reprimand her for it. Mrs. Elton offers her servant to retrieve Jane’s mail, but Jane resolutely declines the offer, insisting on making the walk herself.

The topic of conversation changes to the post office itself and then to handwriting. Emma is momentarily unsure of how to bring up Frank Churchill’s name, but she eventually expresses that he has excellent penmanship for a gentleman. However, Mr. Knightley disagrees and thinks it is too small and lacks strength. Emma promises to show him an example of Frank’s handwriting that will convince him otherwise.

As the guests make their way to the dining room, Emma notices that Jane appears to be glowing and assumes it is due to a letter from Ireland from her supposed lover, Mr. Dixon. However, she does not make any inquiries, determined not to hurt Jane in any way. Emma and Jane enter the dining room together arm in arm, and after the meal, they return to the drawing-room, where Mrs. Elton begins to monopolize Jane’s attention. Mrs. Elton encourages Jane to begin looking for a position as a governess as soon as possible. However, Jane firmly insists that Mrs. Elton not make any inquiries on her behalf, expressing her intention to spend the summer doing exactly what she is doing now.

When Mr. Weston finally arrives, he brings a letter from Frank Churchill announcing his arrival the following week. The Westons are overjoyed, while Emma is surprised by her mixed emotions. Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley seem unenthusiastic about Frank’s arrival. Mr. Weston shares the news with Mrs. Elton.

Mr. Weston informs Mrs. Elton that Frank will travel with his adoptive parents because Mrs. Churchill is unwell and requires a warmer climate. He implies that he does not quite believe in Mrs. Churchill’s supposed illness. 

Mr. Weston provides Mrs. Elton with some background information on the Churchills. He describes both as proud, but in different ways: Mr. Churchill’s pride makes him merely “helpless and tiresome,” while Mrs. Churchill’s pride is “arrogance and insolence.” According to Mr. Weston, Mrs. Churchill, who did not come from a very aristocratic background, has assumed all the privileges of the upper class since marrying into it. Mrs. Elton seems more interested in speaking of Maple Grove and its social circle than of the Churchills.

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Chapters 32-33 Summary

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Chapters 37-39 Summary