Chapters 37-39 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

Summary
Upon Frank Churchill’s return, he makes a short visit to Emma before hurrying off to visit others in Highbury. Emma notices that he seems less enamored with her than during his previous visit. Although he appears to be as pleasant and friendly as usual when discussing trivial matters, she can sense a certain detachment towards her. After this initial visit, Frank does not call on Emma for another ten days.

Emma discovers that Mrs. Churchill cannot tolerate living in London and is relocating the family to Richmond, only nine miles from Highbury. Frank is pleased with the move as it brings him even closer to Highbury, and he can make more frequent visits. Emma proceeds with the plans for the ball at the Crown Inn.

On the day of the ball, Mr. Weston asks Emma to arrive early to help with preparations, and she agrees, bringing Harriet with her. Guests start arriving, and Emma realizes that she is not the only one Mr. Weston asked to arrive early. Emma is curious to know Frank’s opinion of Mrs. Elton since they have never met. The Eltons were supposed to bring Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax with them, but they show up without them. A carriage is sent to pick them up, and when it returns, Frank goes to meet it with an umbrella he claims is for Miss Bates.

Mrs. Elton highly praises Frank to his father, and Mr. Weston happily listens until Mrs. Elton begins to speak of Maple Grove; he then makes an excuse and moves away. Mrs. Elton mentions that she believes the ball is being thrown in her honor, and the Westons realize she will expect to dance with Frank first. However, Mrs. Weston convinces her husband to dance with Mrs. Elton, allowing Frank to dance with Emma.

The dancing commences with Mrs. Elton and Mr. Weston, followed by Emma and Frank. The distinction of beginning the ball was supposed to have been Emma’s, but she accepts second place, pleased to have an evening filled with merriment ahead of her. However, she is upset by Mr. Knightley, who is conversing with other attendees instead of dancing.

Emma spots Harriet seated, lacking a dancing partner. She is surprised that anyone could be without a partner until she observes Mr. Elton walking about, also without a partner. She is sure Mr. Elton will refuse to dance with Harriet. Mrs. Weston even attempts to pair them up to dance, but Mr. Elton insists he is no dancer. The behavior of the Eltons and the looks passed between them make it clear that they meant to wound Harriet. Finally, much to Emma’s delight, Mr. Knightley invites Harriet to dance. Mr. Elton makes his way to the card room, and Emma supposes that he looks foolish as he does so.

Following dinner, Mr. Knightley and Emma have a chance to converse, and Mr. Knightley criticizes Mr. Elton’s behavior as extremely impolite. He recognizes that Mr. Elton’s actions were intended to hurt Harriet, but he questions why Emma has also become the target of his animosity. Though aware that Emma had hoped to make a match between Mr. Elton and Harriet, he refrains from criticizing Emma. When Emma admits to being completely wrong about Mr. Elton, Mr. Knightley gratifies her by saying that Harriet would have made a much better partner for Mr. Elton than the woman Mr. Elton chose for himself. When the dancing begins again, Mr. Knightley and Emma dance together. 

The next morning, Emma is greatly pleased as she reflects on the ball. She is relieved that Harriet is no...

(This entire section contains 758 words.)

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longer infatuated with Mr. Elton. She is content that Frank is “not too much in love” with her and that Mr. Knightley isn’t quarreling with her about her meddling in other people’s affairs. Emma anticipates a happy summer ahead.

Suddenly, Frank arrives at her gate with a pale and distressed Harriet. Harriet collapses into a chair. While walking home from the ball, she was attacked by a group of gypsies. Frank was coincidentally nearby and came to her rescue, driving the gypsies away and bringing her to Hartfield. Once Frank confirms that Harriet is well, he departs. Emma is inspired by their shared adventure and thinks that Harriet and Frank would make a good match. She believes that they are both in a favorable state of mind for a relationship and that since fate has brought them together, she doesn’t have to interfere too much.

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