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Emma Chapters 22 & 23
Emma Volume II, Chapters XXII & XXIII: Quotes, Questions, and Conversation
September 13, 2016
11:41 AM
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Forum Posts: 23
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December 27, 2014
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It’s time for Emma to welcome back Mr. Elton and to finally meet Frank Churchill. One of the wonderful things about Emma is that the narration is all filtered through Emma’s point of view, and it’s hilarious to see how blind she is to her own faults. These chapters have some great examples of Jane Austen’s subtle jabs at Emma. For example, let’s compare Emma’s reaction to Harriet’s emotions to her own emotions later on when Frank Churchill arrives.

After Mr. Elton returns, Harriet cannot stop thinking about him:

Could she but have given Harriet her feelings about it all! She had talked her into love; but, alas! she was not so easily to be talked out of it. The charm of an object to occupy the many vacancies of Harriet’s mind was not to be talked away. He might be superseded by another; he certainly would indeed; nothing could be clearer; even a Robert Martin would have been sufficient; but nothing else, she feared, would cure her. Harriet was one of those, who, having once begun, would be always in love. And now, poor girl! she was considerably worse from this reappearance of Mr. Elton. She was always having a glimpse of him somewhere or other. Emma saw him only once; but two or three times every day Harriet was sure just to meet with him, or just to miss him, just to hear his voice, or see his shoulder, just to have something occur to preserve him in her fancy, in all the favouring warmth of surprize and conjecture. She was, moreover, perpetually hearing about him; for, excepting when at Hartfield, she was always among those who saw no fault in Mr. Elton, and found nothing so interesting as the discussion of his concerns; and every report, therefore, every guess–all that had already occurred, all that might occur in the arrangement of his affairs, comprehending income, servants, and furniture, was continually in agitation around her. Her regard was receiving strength by invariable praise of him, and her regrets kept alive, and feelings irritated by ceaseless repetitions of Miss Hawkins’s happiness, and continual observation of, how much he seemed attached!–his air as he walked by the house–the very sitting of his hat, being all in proof of how much he was in love!

Now compare this to Emma, after she learns that Frank Churchill is about to arrive:

The morning of the interesting day arrived, and Mrs. Weston’s faithful pupil did not forget either at ten, or eleven, or twelve o’clock, that she was to think of her at four.

“My dear, dear anxious friend,”–said she, in mental soliloquy, while walking downstairs from her own room, “always overcareful for every body’s comfort but your own; I see you now in all your little fidgets, going again and again into his room, to be sure that all is right.” The clock struck twelve as she passed through the hall. “‘Tis twelve; I shall not forget to think of you four hours hence; and by this time to-morrow, perhaps, or a little later, I may be thinking of the possibility of their all calling here. I am sure they will bring him soon.”

This brings me to my first question: Is there any difference between the way Harriet thinks about Mr. Elton and the way Emma thinks about Frank?

I also wanted to discuss Emma’s feelings about the Martins. In this chapter, Emma helps Harriet pay a visit to the Martins, but she still doesn’t regret that she discouraged Harriet from accepting Robert Martin’s offer of marriage. 

It was a bad business. She would have given a great deal, or endured a great deal, to have had the Martins in a higher rank of life. They were so deserving, that a little higher should have been enough: but as it was, how could she have done otherwise?–Impossible!–She could not repent. They must be separated; but there was a great deal of pain in the process–so much to herself at this time, that she soon felt the necessity of a little consolation, and resolved on going home by way of Randalls to procure it.

Question #2: Emma believes the Martin’s deserve a higher rank in life, but she still thinks she was right to discourage Harriet. Why does she think Harriet deserves better? Does she have a double standard here?

Now enough about Emma’s character. Let’s discuss Frank’s character. Can you see any hints in the following lines that Frank is acting a part?

He had reached Randalls the evening before. She was pleased with the eagerness to arrive which had made him alter his plan, and travel earlier, later, and quicker, that he might gain half a day.

“I told you yesterday,” cried Mr. Weston with exultation, “I told you all that he would be here before the time named. I remembered what I used to do myself. One cannot creep upon a journey; one cannot help getting on faster than one has planned; and the pleasure of coming in upon one’s friends before the look-out begins, is worth a great deal more than any little exertion it needs.”

“It is a great pleasure where one can indulge in it,” said the young man, “though there are not many houses that I should presume on so far; but in coming home I felt I might do any thing.”

The word home made his father look on him with fresh complacency. Emma was directly sure that he knew how to make himself agreeable; the conviction was strengthened by what followed. He was very much pleased with Randalls, thought it a most admirably arranged house, would hardly allow it even to be very small, admired the situation, the walk to Highbury, Highbury itself, Hartfield still more, and professed himself to have always felt the sort of interest in the country which none but one’s own country gives, and the greatest curiosity to visit it. That he should never have been able to indulge so amiable a feeling before, passed suspiciously through Emma’s brain; but still, if it were a falsehood, it was a pleasant one, and pleasantly handled. His manner had no air of study or exaggeration. He did really look and speak as if in a state of no common enjoyment.

Their subjects in general were such as belong to an opening acquaintance. On his side were the inquiries,–“Was she a horsewoman?–Pleasant rides?–Pleasant walks?–Had they a large neighbourhood?–Highbury, perhaps, afforded society enough?–There were several very pretty houses in and about it.–Balls–had they balls?–Was it a musical society?”

But when satisfied on all these points, and their acquaintance proportionably advanced, he contrived to find an opportunity, while their two fathers were engaged with each other, of introducing his mother-in-law, and speaking of her with so much handsome praise, so much warm admiration, so much gratitude for the happiness she secured to his father, and her very kind reception of himself, as was an additional proof of his knowing how to please–and of his certainly thinking it worth while to try to please her. He did not advance a word of praise beyond what she knew to be thoroughly deserved by Mrs. Weston; but, undoubtedly he could know very little of the matter. He understood what would be welcome; he could be sure of little else. “His father’s marriage,” he said, “had been the wisest measure, every friend must rejoice in it; and the family from whom he had received such a blessing must be ever considered as having conferred the highest obligation on him.”


The following person says thank you to Rebecca H Jamison for this post.:

Alexa Adams
September 14, 2016
12:21 PM
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Forum Posts: 43
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August 14, 2015
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Followed along in my copy of Emma while audible read these chapters while sitting on the recumbent bike at the gym yesterday, so I am trying to remember what I read.  I remember being struck by the number of times Austen tells us that Frank is good at acting a part….and she often uses Emma’s thoughts to tell us that. Of course, having read this before and knowing what Frank is up to gives the words more weight and makes them stand out more.  Emma has not seen the end of the story yet.  So we must let her be ignorant with less reproach.  

I have not thought about a connection between how Emma thinks of Frank Churchhill and how Harriet thinks of Mr. Elton, so I will not comment on that, but tuck the idea way in my brain for further thinking later.  I did, however, have to work hard at not actually laughing out loud and looking rather foolish when I read that part about how even Mr. Elton’s hat spoke of how in love he was!  😀

Poor Harriet and Mr. Martin! That really is an interference for which I have a hard time forgiving Emma.  I know that she thinks Harriet a gentleman’s daughter and, therefore, a step above a yeoman farmer, but I have to agree with Mr. Know-it-all, er, I mean Knightley ;), this match would not have been a bad one for either party. 

The following person says thank you to Leenie Brown for this post.:

Alexa Adams
September 15, 2016
2:28 AM
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December 27, 2014
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I’ll take on the question about Emma and Harriet’s similar reactions to their crushes. I had never thought about it before, and my first response is that Emma would be horrified to have the similarity pointed out to her! But yes, I think you make a good point here, Rebecca. Emma might be more educated and analytical than Harriet, but she is just as willing to let her mind roam aimlessly on the subjects of her fancy. I think “The charm of an object to occupy the many vacancies of Harriet’s mind was not to be talked away” is the telling line. And this isn’t just a reflection on Emma’s thoughts on Frank – it is something she has been guilty of throughout the book. Her entire construction of the Harriet and Elton romance was premised in “the charm of an object to occupy the many vacancies” of her mind. Yes, is more intelligent than Harriet, but she is just as willing to have her leisure moments idled away in fantasy. Dare I say it … yes I must: Emma is showing she lacks resources to occupy her time. I know we haven’t met Mrs. Elton yet, and have yet to endure her bragging on her many resources (which prove largely nonexistent), but if Emma had any truly engaging pursuits – if she diligently practiced her music, or read as voraciously as she has planned – she probably wouldn’t have gotten into trouble with Harriet and Mr. Elton in the first place. Boredom, in many ways, is villain of this story.