Literature Study GuidesEmmaChapters 19 21 Summary

Emma | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapters 19–21

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 19–21 of Jane Austen's novel Emma.

Emma | Chapters 19–21 (Volume 2, Chapters 1–3) | Summary



Chapter 19

Emma has taken charge of Harriet, and in an effort to divert her friend as they are out walking one morning, she suggests dropping in on Mrs. and Miss Bates. Although Emma finds the Bates women tiresome, especially the talkative Miss Bates, she has the social obligation to keep up their acquaintance. Miss Bates reports that her niece, Jane Fairfax, is expected to arrive for an extended visit. Jane was orphaned as a young girl but was provided an education by friends of her father's, Colonel and Mrs. Campbell. Jane is good friends with the Campbells' daughter, Miss Campbell, who recently married Mr. Dixon and moved to Ireland. Jane has been invited, along with the Campbells, to visit the newlyweds, but instead she is returning to Hartfield because of ill health. The narrator says, "At that moment, an ingenious and animating suspicion entered Emma's brain with regard to Jane Fairfax, this charming Mr. Dixon, and the not going to Ireland." Emma wonders if there are inappropriate feelings between the two. Emma escapes with Harriet before Miss Bates has a chance to read them Jane's entire letter.

Chapter 20

Jane Fairfax, orphaned at three, was raised by Miss Bates, her maternal aunt, and Mrs. Bates, her maternal grandmother. Additionally, she was educated and nurtured by Colonel and Mrs. Campbell. Jane's father, a lieutenant in the infantry, took care of Colonel Campbell when he was ill and saved his life. When the Colonel returned to England, he made sure Jane received an education, and she began to spend time with the Campbells. The family showed a lot of affection for Jane, and she grew up to be a beautiful and highly accomplished young woman. Because the Campbells are of modest means and cannot provide for her, however, she plans to take a job as a governess after enjoying a few months' vacation in Hartfield. Emma dislikes Jane because they are about the same age, although Jane is much more accomplished in her studies. She is also annoyed because Miss Bates dotes on Jane and constantly brags about her.

Emma resolves during their first visit to change her attitude toward Jane and allows herself to feel compassion for the other woman, who will waste her talent and elegance in the teaching trade. But her heart is hardened by Jane's aloofness. When Jane and the Bates women come to Hartfield, Emma learns that Jane and Frank spent time together in Weymouth. Jane, however, will not provide any information about young Churchill. For this, "Emma could not forgive her."

Chapter 21

Mr. Knightley compliments Emma on her gracious treatment of Jane and her relatives the previous evening. The Bates women then drop by again to thank Emma for her gift of fresh pork. Miss Bates tells her that Mr. Elton is about to be married to Miss Hawkins, a woman he met in Bath. After they leave, Harriet stops by to tell Emma that she ran into the Martins at Ford's, the fabric store. Both brother and sister spoke to her briefly, and she is in a confused emotional state. Emma then uses the news of Mr. Elton's imminent marriage to get Harriet's mind off Mr. Martin.


The Bates women are gentlewomen of little financial means, and Miss Bates is one of those unfortunate old maids that Harriet has so much fear of becoming. Much earlier in the novel, the narrator tells readers that although Miss Bates has few qualities to recommend her, her sunny disposition makes her well-liked by all. While most people overlook her tendency to embark on disjointed, stream-of-consciousness monologues, Emma finds her boring and tedious. Emma is jealous of Jane because they are both the same age but Jane exceeds her in true accomplishment. For Emma, who conceives of herself as the social queen of Highbury, gentle, refined, and accomplished Jane is hard to endure.

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