Chapters 9-11 Summary

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Last Updated May 30, 2023.

Emma and Harriet are writing riddles when they ask Mr. Elton to contribute one. The next day, he does, but he credits it to a “friend” and addresses it to Emma. Emma, however, interprets the riddle as a declaration of love for Harriet and congratulates her on her good fortune. Harriet is skeptical that Mr. Elton, who is popular and well-positioned, would want to marry her, but she trusts Emma's judgment.

Mr. Woodhouse enters the room and talks about the upcoming visit of his daughter Isabella and her family. Then, Mr. Elton arrives, and Emma returns the riddle, explaining that she and Harriet copied it into their book. Mr. Elton reads the riddle and implies that it is the proudest moment of his life.

The next day, during a charity visit to a poor family, Emma and Harriet encounter Mr. Elton. Emma attempts to leave them alone to converse but cannot resist eavesdropping. Emma is convinced that Mr. Elton will declare his love for Harriet, but she only hears them discussing yesterday's dinner menu. She tries again to give them privacy but still does not hear anything that suggests romance. Emma believes that Mr. Elton is being cautious in his approach.

Emma decides to let Harriet and Mr. Elton handle their relationship on their own and shifts her focus to her sister's upcoming visit. The two families reunite and make small talk about each other and their acquaintances. John Knightley asks if Frank Churchill has visited his new stepmother yet, and Emma explains that he has not. Mrs. Knightley expresses her confusion at how Frank's biological father could give him away to the Churchills. Her husband compares her strong love for her child to Mr. Weston's apparent preference for socializing rather than spending time with his family. He characterizes Mr. Weston as a man who takes more pleasure in being in noisy society than in being alone at home.

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