Chapters 34-36 Summary and Analysis
Emma plans a dinner party for the Eltons. She does not wish to be thought of as overlooking them and thinks people will talk if she doesn’t invite them. Just when everything is set, John Knightley appears with his two sons for a visit with their grandpa, Mr. Woodhouse. Their arrival throws Emma’s seating arrangement into disarray. She must plan to sit across from her brother-in-law whom she knows to be a reluctant conversationalist.
John Knightley surprises her by engaging in a lively conversation with Jane Fairfax. He tells her, and everyone at the table, that he saw her that morning, in the rain, on her way to the post office. Mr. Woodhouse chimes in that rain is unhealthy, and Mrs. Elton adds that she risked a cold going out. Mrs. Elton offers the use of her servant to fetch Jane’s mail, but Jane declines.
Skillfully, Jane deflects the conversation to handwriting and the guests give their impressions of what constitutes beautiful penmanship. Though momentarily uncertain of how to introduce Frank Churchill’s name, Emma blurts out that he has a fine gentleman’s hand. Mr. Knightley finds it too small and lacking strength. Emma promises to produce a specimen that will convince him otherwise. When the guests head to dinner, Emma notices that Jane appears to be glowing with health. She assumes the letter that came is from Ireland and her secret lover, Mr. Dixon. The two go into the dining room arm-in-arm. Once dinner is done, the guests head back to the drawing room, where Mrs. Elton attaches herself to Jane Fairfax. Mrs. Elton urges her to secure a governess position before the spring is over so that she can be employed by fall. Jane is most insistent that Mrs. Elton not put out any feelers for her. She insists she will spend the summer doing just as she is doing. When Mr. Weston comes in late, he brings a letter from Frank Churchill. The letter announces Frank’s arrival next week. The Westons are thrilled, Emma is surprised at her confused feelings, and Mr. Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley remain cool to the prospect. Mr. Weston approaches Mrs. Elton with the news.
There is more to Frank’s news than first reported. Mr. Weston tells Mrs. Elton that Frank is coming first to London with his parents because Mrs. Churchill is ill and needs a more southerly climate. Though that will mean Frank can make more frequent visits to Highbury, it also suggests to Mr. Weston that Mrs. Churchill is using her illness to attach herself to Frank.
Mr. Weston gives Mrs. Elton a history of the Churchills. He characterizes Mr. Churchill as a bit stuffy, but generally amiable. He claims the real ruler in the family is Mrs. Churchill, who was not born into the upper class, but snatched all the privileges of it once she married up. Mrs. Elton...
(The entire section is 735 words.)