Chapters 40-42 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1186

Harriet shows Emma the contents of a small parcel. It contains a small ceramic box with a piece of court plaister inside. Not long ago, Harriet had wrapped Mr. Elton’s cut finger with it. Along with the plaister is the head of a pencil. Harriet recounts that Mr. Elton once used the pencil to write in his notebook. Harriet resolves to throw both keepsakes into the fireplace. She does so proclaiming that this act spells the end of her feelings for Mr. Elton. Then Harriet says she will never marry.

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Emma suggests Harriet’s vow means that she must be currently attracted to someone of superior rank. Harriet replies that this someone is so superior she can only content herself to admire him from a distance. Emma explains that it’s only natural to feel that way since this someone did her a service. Harriet replies that it was more of an obligation. Emma cautions Harriet not to get carried away before she is certain her feelings are returned. Then, she tells Harriet that matches of greater disparity have been made before and compliments her choice.

As June settles in, Mr. Knightley grows puzzled. Mr. and Mrs. Weston make much of Frank’s intentions toward Emma. He has seen how attentive he is to her, yet he suspects Frank of double dealing. He has picked up signals that Frank also admires Jane Fairfax. He had noticed him giving her looks at a dinner party at the Elton’s house when Emma was not present.

Mr. Knightley joins Emma and Harriet for an evening walk. They encounter Mr. and Mrs. Weston and Frank. As they make small talk, Mr. Perry rides up on his horse and greets them before riding off. Once he has gone, Frank asks Mrs. Weston when Mr. Perry will be buying a new carriage. Mrs. Weston doesn’t know what he’s talking about, though Frank claims she wrote him about the proposed purchase. Mrs. Weston is sure she never wrote any such thing.

Frank decides he must have dreamed it and changes the subject. Miss Bates begins a long speech in which she says her family knew of the Perry’s plan to purchase a carriage. She asserts though she is a great talker, she has kept the secret, and that Jane is the type of person who would never betray a confidence.

Mr. Knightley is on his guard as they head toward Hartfield. He scrutinizes Frank’s face for any secret signals to Jane, but sees none. After tea, Frank suggests a game with Emma’s nephew’s alphabet letters where one guest will mix up a word, and the others try to decipher it. Frank spells a word and thrusts it toward Jane Fairfax. Mr. Knightley notices and suspects the two are sharing a secret.

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Another word is mixed and Frank shows it to Emma. The word is “Dixon,” which Emma finds highly entertaining. When Frank suggests showing it to Jane, Emma protests laughingly. Frank shows it to Jane, and she and Mr. Knightley decipher it together. Mr. Knightley cannot guess its meaning, and Jane blushes. Jane leaves with Miss Bates, and Mr. Knightley sits riddled with doubts. When he asks Emma what the word “Dixon” means, Emma tells him the whole thing was a joke. Mr. Knightley asks Emma if she thinks there is something between Frank and Jane. Emma vociferously denies any such possibility. Overpowered by Emma’s certainty, Mr. Knightley walks home in silence.

Disappointed that her brother’s visit has been postponed, Mrs. Elton suggests their immediate circle go exploring to Box Hill. Though Emma would rather not have gone with Mrs. Elton, she chooses not to fault Mr. Weston for helping to plan the outing. Her scolding him would only hurt his wife, who is expecting a child.

Just as the party plans are being set, a lame carriage horse disrupts them. The party cannot travel to Box Hill en masse as Mrs. Elton wanted. Mr. Knightley suggests they all come to Donwell Abbey and eat his strawberries, which are just ripening. Mrs. Elton seizes on the idea and begins elaborate preparations for a picnic. Mr. Knightley requests a simple indoor dinner. With his blunt manner, he prevails.

When the horse recovers, the party decides to gather one day at Donwell, the next at Box Hill. The guests arrive, and Emma is reaquainted with the Abbey and feels proud to be associated with such a splendid estate by her sister’s marriage into the Knightley family. Her father is settled by the fire, and the guests go to gather strawberries. The party assembles to take in the view from Donwell’s hill. It is of a snug, prosperous valley, the centerpiece of which is the Abbey-Mill farm, the home of Robert Martin.

When they go inside to dine, Emma finds Mrs. Weston anxious that Frank has not yet arrived. After dinner, the guests go exploring again, and Emma goes to sit with her father. She encounters Jane Fairfax in the hall, and Jane tells her she is going to return to Highbury on foot and asks Emma to make apologies for her leaving. Emma expresses her concern for Jane’s health and safety, but Jane is determined. Fifteen minutes later, Frank Churchill arrives and blames his mother for his lateness. She has had another seizure. Frank complains of the heat, and Emma observes that he appears cross. Frank leaves to join the others for dinner and comes back more composed. He confesses to Emma that he longs to escape England and go abroad. He claims that his family thwarts him.

Emma invites him to Box Hill on the following day, but he declines. If he leaves for Richmond now and has to come again to Highbury tomorrow, he will be cross, but to stay in Richmond will make him even crosser because he will miss them all. To solve the dilemma, he agrees to join the party—if Emma will be there.

In these chapters, Emma’s follies reach a new plateau. When Harriet reveals the contents of her little box, Emma regrets her past deceptions, but not enough to retire from matchmaking. The moment after Emma repents her past trickery, she lures Harriet into a new and riskier relationship with someone even higher in class than Mr. Elton. Emma raises the stakes by not speaking the name of the person she hopes to pair with Harriet, but we know she is thinking of Frank Churchill.

When Mr. Knightley suggests there may be something between Frank and Jane Fairfax, Emma scoffs. She cannot see past her own manipulations. Blind to what transpires between Frank and Jane, Emma leaves herself open to become their pawn.

Emma persists in telling everyone else’s story. When the women view Abbey-Mill farm from afar, Emma is filled with relief that because Harriet no longer cares about Robert Martin, seeing his home will not affect her. She even tells herself that Robert Martin has probably forgotten Harriet, thus absolving herself from the pain she caused them both.

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Chapters 37-39 Summary and Analysis


Chapters 43-45 Summary and Analysis