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Emma Chapters 24 & 25
Emma, Volume II, Chapters XXIV & XXV: Quotes, Questions, and Conversation
September 20, 2016
12:59 PM
Austen Authors
Forum Posts: 43
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August 14, 2015
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Let’s talk a bit about Frank Churchill since we get to learn so much about him from his words and actions in these chapters. I’ll give you some quotes and some questions, and then share a bit of my thoughts along the way (hopefully, leaving room for others to add their thoughts as well). 

Upon what was Emma forming her opinion of Frank Churchill?  What was she watching that caused her to feel that Mr. Knightley had not done Mr. Frank Churchill justice? 

Emma watched and decided, that with such feelings as were now shewn, it could not be fairly supposed that he had been ever voluntarily absenting himself; that he had not been acting a part, or making a parade of insincere professions; and that Mr. Knightley certainly had not done him justice.

Austen, Jane. Emma (p. 106). . Kindle Edition.

Emma spends a good deal of time with Mr. Frank Churchill in chapter 24.  Just before this next quote, Frank Churchill ducks into a store to avoid a question and then brings that question up once again after they are in the store. As he and Emma are speaking in the store, Emma asks if he knows what Jane Fairfax will eventually become.  He agrees with hesitation that he does.  Then, Mrs. Weston says this: 

“You get upon delicate subjects, Emma,” said Mrs. Weston smiling; “remember that I am here.— Mr. Frank Churchill hardly knows what to say when you speak of Miss Fairfax’s situation in life. I will move a little farther off.”

Austen, Jane. Emma (p. 108). . Kindle Edition.

Do you think it was because Mrs. Weston, a former governess, was standing near them in the store that Mr. Frank Churchill hardly knew what to say?

Let’s go back to that quote on the intro page to this week’s read along…the one about not loving a reserved person.  Reservation was one of the reasons Emma gave for not becoming friends with Jane Fairfax, and that led to the comment made by Frank Churchill.  That comment is followed by this response from Emma:

“Not till the reserve ceases towards oneself; and then the attraction may be the greater. But I must be more in want of a friend, or an agreeable companion, than I have yet been, to take the trouble of conquering any body’s reserve to procure one. Intimacy between Miss Fairfax and me is quite out of the question. I have no reason to think ill of her— not the least— except that such extreme and perpetual cautiousness of word and manner, such a dread of giving a distinct idea about any body, is apt to suggest suspicions of there being something to conceal.”

Austen, Jane. Emma (p. 109). . Kindle Edition.

So, not impossible to love a reserved person if one bothers to take the steps necessary to conquer that reserve…but Emma did not bother to do so.  I think this might say more about Emma than about Jane.  I also find it interesting that Emma mentions that the reserve might suggest there is something to hide and yet, she doesn’t clue into the fact that Jane (as well as Frank) is indeed hiding something.  Is Frank Churchill’s open manners and lack of reserve one of the reasons he can get away with his deception?  

There are so many things in chapter 24 that point to Frank Churchill hiding something — the way he answers without answering, how he avoids and then reapproaches a question once he has had time to consider an answer, the way he ferrets out just how much Emma knows of Jane’s time in Weymouth before divulging the amount of time they spent in company — clues dropping left and right and no one picking up any of them! 

And then we get to Chapter 25, and Frank Churchill does something that shakes Emma’s opinion of him momentarily. 

Emma’s very good opinion of Frank Churchill was a little shaken the following day, by hearing that he was gone off to London, merely to have his hair cut. A sudden freak seemed to have seized him at breakfast, and he had sent for a chaise and set off, intending to return to dinner, but with no more important view that appeared than having his hair cut. There was certainly no harm in his travelling sixteen miles twice over on such an errand; but there was an air of foppery and nonsense in it which she could not approve. It did not accord with the rationality of plan, the moderation in expense, or even the unselfish warmth of heart, which she had believed herself to discern in him yesterday. Vanity, extravagance, love of change, restlessness of temper, which must be doing something, good or bad; heedlessness as to the pleasure of his father and Mrs. Weston, indifferent as to how his conduct might appear in general; he became liable to all these charges. His father only called him a coxcomb, and thought it a very good story; but that Mrs. Weston did not like it, was clear enough, by her passing it over as quickly as possible, and making no other comment than that “all young people would have their little whims.”

Austen, Jane. Emma (p. 110). . Kindle Edition. 

Do you think that Emma would have overlooked this bit of “foppery and nonsense” about the haircut if Mrs. Weston had not excused it? 


Emma seems to value the opinion of Mrs.Weston very highly. Going back to the first question at the top of this post, she looks to Mrs. Weston to see how Frank treats her and if Mrs. Weston approves of him or not.  She then later in this chapter looks to the Westons to know whether or not to accept an invitation from the Coles.  The Coles were from trade you see, but they were doing very well and had seemingly forgotten that though they had wealth they were not of the gentleman class. An invitation to a dinner party must surely be refused, right? 

How much of who Emma is has been formed by Mrs. Weston?  Emma had no mother and her father, although his actions and attitudes make me chuckle, was rather foolish.  Who else could Emma looked to for advice?  Well, there is Mr. Knightley, but his ideas so often did not agree with Emmas that his advice could not be taken. 🙂  Anyway, here we are at the end of two chapters that give us a good amount of detail regarding Frank Churchill and, I believe, a bit more insight into the importance Mrs. Weston still plays in Emma’s life. 

Now, it is your turn. What kind of things were you thinking as you read through these chapters? 

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

Alexa Adams
September 21, 2016
8:32 AM
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December 27, 2014
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Lot’s of great thoughts, Leenie! I’m going to answer freeform, hopefully tagging all your questions along the way.

Beginning with the introductory quote, I think Emma reveals a lot about herself here, including the fact that she is very smart. She puts Frank on his guard. She knows that at least Jane is hiding something. Her conjectures might be off, and Frank hesitates to go along with the idea of Jane doing something as scandalous as falling in love with her friend’s husband, but in the end he sees that letting Emma go on believing it is the easiest way to keep her from discovering the truth. He is also hiding behind Mr. and Mrs. Weston’s not so subtle interest in his courting Emma. This is where I find his behavior most reprehensible, but as the characters will eventually address this issue themselves, I’ll say no more about it now.

I think it odd that Frank Churchill is probably the only male character in Austen who I think of by his first name. I always call him Frank. I’m not sure what about him invites this intimacy. 

Emma looks to Mrs. Weston to form her opinion of Frank because that is where her loyalty lies. Though Mrs. Weston is responsible for Emma’s upbringing, I think the question here is not so much one of her influence over her former charge, but whether or not Mr. Churchill passes a character test Emma has imposed upon him. If he is accepting of his step-mother and does not treat her poorly because of her lowly place in the world, than she is free to think well of him. If he is proud and rude, intent on making Mrs. Weston uncomfortable, than she cannot like him. Mrs. Weston’s happiness is her primary concern in forming this opinion, but it also seems a pretty reasonable manner of judging a person. Nevertheless, when he runs off to London for the supposed haircut, she condemns him regardless of Mrs. Weston, though even more so when she sees her friend is not pleased with Frank’s behavior. Then Mr. Knightley steps into the picture.

There was one person among his new acquaintance in Surry, not so leniently disposed. In general he was judged, throughout the parishes of Donwell and Highbury, with great candour; liberal allowances were made for the little excesses of such a handsome young man–one who smiled so often and bowed so well; but there was one spirit among them not to be softened, from its power of censure, by bows or smiles–Mr. Knightley. The circumstance was told him at Hartfield; for the moment, he was silent; but Emma heard him almost immediately afterwards say to himself, over a newspaper he held in his hand, “Hum! just the trifling, silly fellow I took him for.” She had half a mind to resent; but an instant’s observation convinced her that it was really said only to relieve his own feelings, and not meant to provoke; and therefore she let it pass.

I think Emma reveals much more of herself in chapter 25 than in 24. She almost argues with Mr. Knightley for sharing the exact same opinion she herself held upon fist learning of his trip to London! She lets it go, but the very fact that she is tempted, again and again, to argue with Mr. Knightley for no apparent reason reflects the special nature of their relationship.

It is also interesting that part of her reconcilement to Frank’s departure depends on Mr. Weston’s passed-along flattery.

Then there is the invitation from the Coles. I mentioned way early on in this read-along that Emma contains a commentary of the changing economics of the time. Highbury, located but 16 miles from London, was just the sort of town to attract prosperous tradesmen wanting to settle their families in the country, even as they still required easy access to their various interests in the capital. Emma’s distaste for intermingling with tradespeople is common to the gentry of the time, but not to the other members of Highbury’s small society. All of Emma’s associates are friendly with the Coles. She is the only one so proud. She also displays no chagrin in accepting Mr. Weston into her society, despite the fact that his background is also in trade, because he is useful to Mrs. Weston. We can always count on Emma to be self-motivated.

I often wonder what the conversations amongst the Coles were like regarding the invitation. Did they intentionally not invite her at first? Was it Miss Bates, perhaps, who relayed Emma’s chagrin in being left out? Is the fireplace screen a mere excuse, or is it a sincere attempt to pay that deference to Hartfield that Emma believes is its due? Would she have accepted had it not been for feeling excluded? It’s a fascinating moment. 

Looking forward, despite the instability displayed in Highbury’s social world (the Bates’ decline, the rise of the Coles, Mr. Weston’s seesawing fortunes), the traditional order is reestablished. I never quite know what Austen is telling us here, nor how to interpret her intentions.

The following person says thank you to Alexa Adams for this post.:

Leenie Brown
September 21, 2016
2:08 PM
rebecca jamison

Leenie and Alexa have shared such fascinating insights. Perhaps it’s because I watched the movie long before I read the book, but it always strikes me as I read how different the book Emma is from the movie Emma. She is so much more of a snob in the book. Jane Austen’s focus is on class. This is a book about society, and the romance seems to play a secondary role. The reader is supposed to ask herself whether the Martins, Westons, and Coles are as worthy as the Woodhouses and Knightleys. Furthermore, we begin to ask ourselves if the Churchills, despite their high social status, might be a knotch lower on the moral scale of things.

Because of some quotes I’ve read by Jane Austen, I believe she never intended anyone to like Emma. Perhaps, she intended her to be a silly example of the upper class, someone we’d all laugh at because her beliefs are so ridiculous. I find, however, that I like Emma. She’s humble enough to learn her lessons, especially in the end, and she teaches the reader to be less of a snob.

As far as Frank goes, I love seeing him fumble in these chapters. He’s often at a loss for words because Emma is indeed the more frank of the two. (I wonder if there’s a play on words in his name. Jane Austen had to think of that.) Maybe that’s why he’s the only male character that we refer to by his first name although I also think of Mr. Tilney as Henry.

September 21, 2016
6:31 PM
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Forum Posts: 43
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August 14, 2015
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Well said both of you — lots of lovely ideas and theories that I wish I could ask JA about.  Of course, then she might laugh at us all and say…oh it was just a bit of good fun and nothing more. 🙂  I must say, I enjoyed the part where Emma decides not to argue with Mr.

I must say, I enjoyed the part where Emma decides not to argue with Mr. Knightley, and the affront Emma takes to not being invited to a party she did not wish to attend.