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Emma | Chapters 45–46 (Volume 3, Chapters 9–10) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 45

Mr. Knightley is at Hartfield when Emma returns from visiting Miss Bates. She blushes when her father praises her for being attentive to that family, and she then realizes that Mr. Knightley understands she is trying to make amends. Mr. Knightley has suddenly decided to visit his brother in London and has come to take his leave of his friends. He takes Emma's hand and seems about to kiss it, but then he lets it go. The following day, news arrives that Mrs. Churchill has died, and Emma begins to think that maybe Harriet has a chance with Frank. Emma reaches out a few times to Jane, but she is rebuffed, and Emma realizes that "Jane was resolved to receive no kindness from her."

Chapter 46

Mrs. Weston sends her husband to Hartfield to fetch Emma, and she is very much in the dark until she gets to Randalls. Mrs. Weston tells her that Jane and Frank have secretly been engaged for some time. Frank's uncle has agreed to the marriage, although he wants to keep it secret for a while because they are in a period of mourning. Mrs. Weston is concerned for her friend's feelings, but Emma reassures her that any feelings she had for Frank have dissipated. She is angry about his bad behavior, however, and also thinks with mortification of what she has said to him about Jane. She also begins to worry about Harriet. Mrs. Weston makes excuses for her stepson and says he will be sending a letter that explains everything.

Analysis

Mr. Knightley leaves abruptly, perhaps because the feelings he has for Emma are proving too strong for him. He believes that she is attached in some way to Frank Churchill, so it makes sense for him to put himself out of the way for the time being. Frank's relationship with Jane has clearly come to a crisis. She would not have accepted a position as a governess unless she were breaking off her engagement with Frank. No doubt, Frank's flirtation at Box Hill put her beyond endurance. A sincere and upright woman, she has been carrying a heavy secret for months.

When Emma tries to make amends with Jane by visiting, sending food, and offering Jane an airing in the carriage, she is rejected. Jane will take nothing from Emma, and who can blame her? Emma is grieved and mortified that is "given so little credit for proper feeling, or esteemed so little worthy as a friend." It is good that Emma has changed her attitude toward Jane, but she is getting what she deserves.

No doubt Frank was hiding his engagement because he knew his aunt would not approve of his liaison with Jane. He is the heir of the Churchill estate, but that property doesn't come without strings. Frank has had to obey his aunt in all things; Jane's birth is too lowly for Mrs. Churchill, and the girl has no money. However, once Jane pushes the situation to a crisis, Frank finally tells his uncle of his engagement. His aunt's death is fortuitous. Mrs. Weston says, "While poor Mrs. Churchill lived, I suppose there could not have been a hope, a chance, a possibility;—but scarcely are her remains at rest in the family vault than her husband is persuaded to act exactly opposite to what she would have required."

Mrs. Weston is relieved to hear that Emma is not in love with Frank, but there still remains the issue of his very bad behavior in flirting with Emma while he was engaged to Jane.

Emma faults Jane's secrecy as well, as she gives voice to the following: "Here have we been, the whole winter and spring, completely duped, fancying ourselves all on an equal footing of truth and honor, with two people in the midst of us who may have been carrying round, comparing and sitting in judgment on sentiments and words that were never meant for both to hear."

Mrs. Weston's willingness to make excuses for the couple, especially her stepson, who is most at fault, is indicative of her character. She is not a bad person, and neither is her husband, but their morality is more conventional than deep. Frank is their son, and they'd like to see him off the hook, as it were, whether he deserves to be or not. They would rather not squarely face the gravity of his offenses.

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