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Emma | Chapters 24–25 (Volume 2, Chapters 6–7) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24

When Emma sees Frank and Mrs. Weston together the next day, she is happy to notice his friendliness and affection toward his new stepmother. This pleases Emma, and she thinks that Mr. Knightley "certainly had not done him justice." When the three of them go out walking, they stop at the Crown Inn, where Frank spies a ballroom. Seeing an opportunity for some fun, he asks, "Why had not Miss Woodhouse revived the former good old days of the room?" Emma thinks Frank has all of the spirit and sociability of his father with none of the "pride or reserve of Enscombe" (Enscombe is the home of the Churchills). As Emma grows comfortable with Frank, she asks him about Jane, and he remains evasive, although he volunteers that he doesn't approve of her complexion. He does admit they saw a lot of each other at Weymouth. Emma then shares with Frank her fantasy about Jane and Mr. Dixon, which Frank initially dismisses and then allows as a possibility.

Chapter 25

Emma's good opinion of Frank is shaken when he travels to London to get a haircut, which seems a vain extravagance. Emma also learns from the Westons, who are visiting at Hatfield, that Mr. and Mrs. Cole are hosting a large dinner to which all the gentry, except the Woodhouses, have been invited. The narrator says that the Coles are "of low origin, in trade, and only moderately genteel." Nonetheless, they have made a lot of money and are intent on joining high society. Emma initially thinks they should be kept in their place. She tells the Westons that she would turn down their invitation. Almost immediately following this conversation, her invitation arrives, and Emma decides to go.

Analysis

Frank continues to present himself as an amiable companion and someone who likes to socialize and have fun. Likely he sees his visit to Hartfield as an opportunity to break out of the gloom at Enscombe and feels free of the usual familial obligations imposed by the Churchills—hence his eagerness for a ball. But once again, Frank's subterfuge is at work. What the first-time reader of the novel does not know—since the novel is something of a mystery as well as a comedy—is that Frank is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax, a fact that he very successfully hides from Emma. Frank allows that he saw Jane frequently in Weymouth, as they traveled in the same circles, but admits nothing more.

Emma is also not entirely honest when she calls Jane "my dearest friend." The conversation moves to Jane's accomplished piano playing, and Frank tells her that Mr. Dixon admired her musical ability. Emma then rather impetuously shares with Frank her fantasy about Jane and Mr. Dixon, Miss Campbell's new husband. While Frank initially defends Jane's innocence, he then says he doesn't know her well enough to judge the situation.

Frank's ability to inspire people's confidences is evident in Emma's telling him about her conjectures about Jane and Mr. Dixon. Clearly Frank's chameleon-like qualities have been honed as the adopted son of the Churchills.

When the Westons tell Emma about the party she has not been invited to, she falls back on her class snobbery to soothe herself. Luckily Emma does receive an invitation, and the Coles apologize for its lateness by saying they held off on sending it to see if they could get a folding screen to keep her father out of the draft.

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