In Jane Austen's Emma, when does Mr. George Knightley reveal his love for Emma?

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For this assignment, your job is find quotes from the novel that show Mr. George Knightley acting in a loving way toward Emma. Even though you’ve already read the book, you certainly don’t remember the exact things that Knightley did or said to show his love for Emma, and you certainly don’t want to reread the entire novel, or even skim it.

Instead, you want to start by deciding where in the book to look for quotes. I recommend visiting our study guide on this novel ( Skim the very brief bulleted summary of the story at the top of the page, and you may already be able to figure out approximately where in the novel Knightley probably shows his love for Emma most directly.

If you’re not sure yet, then scroll down a bit more to look over the more comprehensive summary of the book. You don’t have to read it all–just use your browser to find the key word “Knightley,” and get a sense of when his love for Emma might become more obvious to her, or at least to us, the readers. For example, you might decide to focus your search on just the last quarter of the book, or just the scene where Knightley dances with Emma at the ball. Or, you might go straight for the scene where Knightley proposes to Emma.

Once you’ve decided approximately where to search for your quotes, I recommend accessing a digital copy of the novel. It’s in the public domain, so you can access it at

Here, use your browser’s search function again, looking for keywords like “Knightley,” “propose,” “feelings," or “love.” Look for where your browser has highlighted one of these key terms and quickly scan the scene. Ask yourself: who’s talking in this scene? What are they talking about? Would this be useful for my work? Browse these moments until you find scenes that you feel best exemplify moments Knightley shows his love for Emma.

To get you started, I would focus, for example, on volume 3, chapter 8 when Knightley tells Emma:

I cannot make speeches. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more, but you know what I am.

Once you’ve found some examples, copy and paste them into your notes, and write down which chapters they came from. Make sure to add your own analysis of these scenes. Try using this template: “In this scene, Knightley is showing his love for Emma when he tells her that...”

Here is an example to get you started:

“In volume 3, chapter 8, Knightley says to Emma, ‘I cannot make speeches, Emma…If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.’” In this conversation, Knightley is showing his love for Emma by telling her that he loves her so much that it’s hard for him to even talk about it.”

Of course, if you use that exact quote from the novel, you’ll want to use your own words to explain what Knightley is saying to Emma.

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How do we know that Emma loves Mr. George Knightley in Jane Austen's Emma, and where in the book does she say so?

Emma first realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley in chapter 11 of volume III. Up until this time, she had considered him a brother-in-law and good friend, but had not realized she harbored romantic feelings for him.

It takes Harriet Smith confiding that she would like Mr. Knightley to propose marriage to her—and thinks it might happen—that alerts Emma to own feelings. Emma experiences a good deal of distress at the idea of Mr. Knightley loving Harriet. She felt nothing like this, however, at the thought of Mr. Elton or Frank Churchill being in love with Harriet.

As she analyzes her feelings of revulsion at the idea of Harriet and Mr. Knightley together, she realizes this is because she has always expected and desired to be with Mr. Knightley. She suddenly understands that this means she is in love with him. She wants him for herself as a romantic partner. Emma in chapter 11 recognizes that, when she compares him to Frank:

She saw that there never had been a time when she did not consider Mr. Knightley as infinitely the superior, or when his regard for her had not been infinitely the most dear.

Emma continues this train of thought in the first sentence of chapter 12:

Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her happiness depended on being first with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and affection.

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In Jane Austen's Emma, how do readers know that Emma loves Mr. George Knightley? Where in the book does she reveal this love? 

Emma first understands her feelings for Mr. Knightley in volume 3, chapter 11. In this chapter, Harriet tells Emma that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill have been secretly engaged. This revelation leads to a very awkward and funny interchange between the two, and Emma learns that Harriet was never interested in Frank, but in Mr. Knightley.

This revelation is a kind of double reversal: not only is the superior Emma being shown up by Harriet (who in fact knows more about what is going on than she does), but Harriet is in effect making a bid to replace Emma in the social order by presuming to love Mr. Knightley. It is only when Harriet openly declares her feelings for Knightley that Emma finally understands her own:

It darted through her, with the speed of an arrow, that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!

This sudden insight has as much to do with Emma's sense of entitlement as it does her love for Mr. Knightley. What triggers her realization is a sudden horror at Harriet's encroachment on what she had thought was safely hers; it is not difficult to imagine a version of the book where Emma and Knightley never marry, absent the catalyst of Emma's jealousy of Harriet. In that sense, Emma's epiphany is actually about protecting her position at the top of society; her love for Mr. Knightley, then, can be read as a reflection of her self-absorption and entitlement.

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