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Literature Study GuidesEmmaChapters 29 31 Summary

Emma | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapters 29–31

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 29–31 of Jane Austen's novel Emma.

Emma | Chapters 29–31 (Volume 2, Chapters 11–13) | Summary



Chapter 29

The Woodhouses visit the Westons, and the possibility of having more dancing is discussed at length. The space at Randalls is limited, however, and Mr. Woodhouse fears drafts from open windows. When he visits Emma at Hartfield the next day, Frank comes up with the idea of hosting a ball at the Crown Inn. Emma then walks over to the Inn with Frank, who suggests it will be a good idea to fetch Miss Bates and Jane for their opinion, and he leaves to get them. In the meantime, Mrs. Weston and Mrs. Stokes, the proprietor of the Inn, set a date.

Chapter 30

As the ball is being planned, Frank is called back home by his aunt, who is seriously ill. When Frank says good-bye to Emma, he seems anxious to discuss something. Emma discourages him, thinking he wants to make a declaration of love. Fortunately, Mr. Woodhouse enters and cuts the conversation short. Emma feels despondent when Frank leaves, concluding that "she must be a little in love with him, in spite of every previous determination against it."

Chapter 31

Emma becomes more convinced she is in love with Frank, even though in all her imagined scenarios she turns him down. She reads a long letter that Frank wrote to Mrs. Weston and is gratified by his feeling of affection and gratitude toward those in Highbury. In the meantime, everyone is talking about Mr. Elton and his upcoming wedding. Harriet continues to pine but resolves to cheer up for Emma's sake, which leads Emma to reflect that "there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart."


Frank continues to do what he can to enliven the social scene at Hartfield, and most everyone is happy to help him. Although he seems to enjoy Emma's company, he continues to use her as a way of hiding his true relationship with Jane. Emma, for her part, sees that his gallantry is rather in his own self-interest, although she interprets those interests to be related to the ball and not to Jane. No doubt Frank senses that Emma is not particularly attached to him, which allows him to justify his flirtation as harmless.

When Frank is suddenly called home by his aunt, he is sad to leave, but not primarily on Emma's account. He tries to broach the subject of his attachment to Jane with her before he leaves. They are speaking about his farewell visit to the Bates household, and he says of Miss Bates that while she is someone "one must laugh at," she is not someone he would wish to slight. He then says, "Perhaps, Miss Woodhouse—I think you can hardly be quite without suspicion." Frank trails off and seems to be trying to read Emma's thoughts, and then Emma makes a comment, cutting him off. In this exchange, there is misunderstanding on both sides. Frank believes that Emma suspects his attachment to Jane. He takes her continual references to Jane as her way of teasing him, which is somewhat understandable. But like Emma, he is too busy projecting his own desires—that Emma understand how things stand between him and Jane—to see the situation clearly. Emma, meanwhile, thinks he is about to declare his love for her, which is why she cuts him off. "He had almost told her he loved her," she thinks," which makes her conclude that she is at least a little in love with him.

After Frank leaves, it is natural for Emma to be a little down, as Frank is fun to be with. Her feelings of sadness solidify the idea that she is really in love with him, even though in her imagination she refuses any declaration of love. Harriet, however, is suffering more than Emma because she cannot get over Mr. Elton. Emma tries to hasten the process, and Harriet obliges. Emma thinks, "I would not change you for the clearest-headed, longest-sighted, best-judging female breathing." Emma is comparing Harriet to Jane and, in a sense, also to herself. She is waxing somewhat romantic about Harriet's ability to feel, perhaps because of her own lack of real feeling for Frank. But Emma is hiding her own true feelings from herself, feelings that are focused in another direction.

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