Chapters 53-55 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1165

Mrs. Weston gives birth to a girl. Emma rejoices that she will have a girl child to educate. Mr. Knightley posits that she will have a girl child to spoil, just as she did Emma, but allows that he has lost all his bitterness toward spoiled children since finding happiness with Emma.

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The two review highlights of the years leading up to their romance. Mr. Knightley reveals his long-standing affection for her, despite her impertinence. Emma owns that she had been a willful girl with a saucy manner. Emma silently reflects that she and Harriet do not correspond much. She feels the pain of concealing the true state of their relationship to Mr. Knightley.

A letter from Isabella gives a good account of Harriet’s visit there. Emma learns it will be extended another two weeks. Mr. Knightley hands Emma a letter from John Knightley, which makes no mention of Harriet and considers his brother’s engagement good fortune-mostly on Emma’s side. Emma thinks her father will find the advantage on Mr. Knightley’s side.

Emma prepares her father for the news of her engagement. She tells him the two plan to marry and emphasizes the advantages. Mr. Woodhouse is shocked. He reminds Emma of her vow never to marry, but Emma persuades him with smiles and assurance that nothing would change greatly in their lives if she marries Mr. Knightley. Emma cannot reconcile Mr. Woodhouse to the marriage, but manages to plant the idea. Emma depends on Mrs. Weston and her sister to help her persuade her father to consent.

Mrs. Weston is delighted to hear about the match, and Mr. Weston sees advantages on both sides and congratulates himself that he foresaw it. Assuming the engagement a secret, he rides to town to tell Jane and Miss Bates and spreads the word to other townspeople. Everyone approves except Mr. and Mrs. Elton, who disparage the match. Mr. Elton hopes Emma’s pride will be contented at last. Mrs. Elton feels sorry for Mr. Knightley and regrets that there will be no more parties and outings dedicated to her because Emma will be in charge now.

Mr. Knightley prepares Emma for some bad news. When he tells her the subject is Harriet Smith, she blushes. He tells her that Robert Martin is going to marry Harriet. She asks how it could be possible, and Mr. Knightley relates the story.

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Mr. Knightley had sent Robert Martin to deliver some papers to his brother in London where Harriet was staying. The two attended the same party, and Mr. Martin wasted no time asking her for her hand, and she readily agreed. Mr. Knightley concludes the story by asking Emma to make allowances for Mr. Martin’s station in life, saying he has an excellent character and is indispensable in business matters.

Emma says she doesn’t need to be reconciled to the match, but questions if Mr. Knightley heard Mr. Martin correctly. He says that he is certain because he helped Mr. Martin work out the details of the hasty courtship. Emma wishes them well and regrets her past foolishness. Mr. Knightley admits he made attempts to get to know Harriet by dancing with her at the ball and walking with her at Donwell. He concluded that she would make a good wife for Mr. Martin. He thinks she has Emma to thank for it. Emma submits to the praise she knows she doesn’t deserve.

Her father comes in, and they go to Randalls where Frank and Jane, now openly engaged, pay a call. Frank greets Emma warmly, though she experiences some shame in meeting him again. He confesses that he should have told her of the secret and came very close once. He congratulates her on her own engagement. Emma accuses him of being amused at having tricked them all. Frank says his deceit made him wretched. Emma says their jibes at Jane make her ashamed. They agree to being alike.

Frank brings up more details of the charade he played with Emma, the unknowing participant. He makes sure Jane hears him and enjoys her embarrassed reaction. Emma cannot understand why he keeps bringing up painful memories. Emma concludes how fortunate she is to have a man of superior character like Mr. Knightley. Emma’s lingering doubts about Harriet are soon put to rest when her friend makes an appearance and tells her that she found Mr. Martin’s continuing affection for her irresistible. She has accepted his offer with joy. Harriet next discovers that her real parents are tradespeople and pose no impediment to her marriage. Emma accompanies her to church where she becomes the first of the three couples to marry.

Mr. Woodhouse is still miserable on the subject of Emma’s marriage. They manage to warm him to the idea, but pull back from telling him that it must take place quickly, before John and Isabella go back to London. Things seem at an impasse when Mrs. Weston’s poultry house is raided by an intruder. Mr. Woodhouse is so frightened of being robbed himself, he suggests Mr. Knightley move in to protect them all and releases Isabella and her husband to return home. A simple wedding takes place, much to Mrs. Elton’s displeasure. All the other guests wish the lovers true happiness.

In these chapters, Emma’s happiness goes from bittersweet to complete. She cannot enjoy her engagement without being haunted by Harriet and her father. She dreads telling both of them about it. She has broken a trust with Harriet and a promise to her father. Though she lacks courage, she has the ability to persuade and first goes to work on her father. Mr. Knightley comes to her rescue by offering to move to Hartfield so her father won’t have to bear the shock of separation.

Just when Emma feels most deeply her obligation to tell Harriet the truth, Mr. Knightley again comes to her rescue. He has been working behind the scenes to promote a match. He set the stage for Robert and Harriet to meet, trusting the rest to fate—trust being a virtue Emma doesn’t possess. By being the guardian of their union, Mr. Knightley, not Emma, becomes the true matchmaker. Emma is relieved of the burden of her father and Harriet.

From the incident with Jane and Frank she has learned the high cost of duplicity. She is forced to compare her own foolishness with Frank’s and the comparison scalds her self-image. Being made to look like a fool hurts her far worse than owning up to being one.

In comparing Frank’s immaturity and deceit to Mr. Knightley’s maturity and honesty, she recognizes her great fortune in having the best man as hers. While she suspects she doesn’t deserve someone quite so good, she is content that with her power of persistence combined with her newfound tenderness of heart, she can demand no less.

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Chapters 50-52 Summary and Analysis