Literature Study GuidesEmmaChapters 22 23 Summary

Emma | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Emma | Chapters 22–23 (Volume 2, Chapters 4–5) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 22

Highbury hears that Mr. Elton's future bride, Miss Augusta Hawkins, is attractive and rich. Emma is relieved that his change in status will make social relations easier between them. To her dismay, Mr. Elton's impending nuptials have done nothing to harden Harriet's heart. In the meantime, she learns that Elizabeth Martin (Robert Martin's sister) recently called on Harriet at Mrs. Goddard's when Harriet was not at home. Emma is now pondering "how the visit was to be acknowledged—what would be necessary—and what might be safest." Emma means to allow Harriet a short, formal visit to the Martins at Abbey Mill, and she plans to take her friend in her own carriage.

Chapter 23

Harriet is miserable after she snubs the Martin women, under Emma's direction, by paying them a 15-minute visit. Mrs. Martin (Robert Martin's mother) and her daughters had "received her doubtingly, if not coolly; and nothing beyond the merest common-place had been talked almost all the time," until Mrs. Martin remarked that Harriet had grown, which brought up the memory of their previous warm relations. Despite Harriet's anguish, Emma feels strongly that she must keep her friend from the Martins for her own good.

After the visit, Mr. and Mrs. Weston stop Emma and Harriet on their way home to announce that Frank is finally coming. The next morning, Mr. Weston wastes no time in bringing him around, and Emma finds him "a very good looking young man." Both Emma and Mr. Weston like that Frank refers to Randalls, Mr. Weston's estate, as "home." Emma is also satisfied that he speaks highly of his new stepmother. Frank leaves, preparing to pay a social call to Jane Fairfax, whom he mildly refers to as "a very elegant young woman."

Analysis

The description of Augusta Hawkins, soon to be Mrs. Elton, is comic. As critic Barbara Thaden has pointed out, this description is a parody of the novel's first sentence that describes Emma. Mrs. Elton has not yet arrived on the scene, but when she does, she will appear as Emma's foil. In regard to the Martins, Emma determines that Harriet must extend some semblance of politeness by returning Elizabeth Martin's visit. She also wants to make sure that a return visit does not awaken the embers of friendship that still burn in Harriet's heart. For this reason, she allows her friend a mere quarter of an hour with the Martins.

After Harriet describes the visit, Emma is aware of the pain that all the parties feel about the change in their relations. Emma can sympathize with the Martin women's resentment. But there is something at work here beyond Emma's seeming refusal to make an exception for what she sees as a difference in class. If she were to admit that Robert Martin is, in fact, suitable for Harriet, she would also have to admit that she has done Harriet a great disservice in preventing her from making a suitable and profitable match based on love and affection. This is too much for Emma to bear, so she sticks to her story—that Robert Martin is beneath Harriet.

When Emma meets Frank Churchill, he is exactly what she and all of Highbury expect: handsome and charming, with good manners. From the very beginning, Frank seems to be someone who knows how to satisfy people by reinforcing their projections. For example, he refers to his father's home as his home. He is careful to praise Mrs. Weston's looks and merits. Frank is also careful to flatter Emma. No doubt Frank, as the adopted son of a difficult woman he depends on as a benefactor, has had years of practice learning how to flatter and please. He certainly appears to be well versed in double dealing, evidenced by his seeming indifference toward Jane Fairfax.

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