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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
Frank Churchill is the twenty-three year old son of Mr. Weston from his first marriage. When his mother died when he was a young child, Mr. Weston allowed the boy to be adopted by his mother's childless brother, Mr. Churchill, who is the wealthy owner of the Enscombe Estate in Yorkshire. Mr. Weston took up his family business in London. He kept in close contact with his son, whom he met every year in London.
Since Mr. Weston had spent his early days in Highbury, he decided to settle there again. He bought Randalls, a small estate outside town, and married Miss Taylor. Mr. Weston has expected his son Frank to soon visit Highbury and meet his new wife. Instead of visiting, Frank writes a letter to the new Mrs. Weston. Even though the letter is kind and filled with good sense, Mrs. Weston does feel a little hurt by Frank's inability to visit them.
Mr. Woodhouse continues to pity Mrs. Weston for her marriage, and the people in Highbury society continue to talk about the wedding and eat the left over wedding-cake. The cautious Mr. Woodhouse consults Dr. Perry about the cake and then advises the townspeople not to eat stale food in the interest of their health.
The character of Frank Churchill is introduced in this chapter; he has been made the subject of curiosity in the Highbury society. He is not known in town, because he was adopted as a child. He is the son of Mr. Weston from his first marriage to Miss Churchill. The match was frowned upon because the Churchills were a rich, aristocratic family, while Mr. Weston was only a captain in the army. Jane Austen points out through Weston that marriage in the upper classes of the English hierarchical society of the eighteenth century was normally based on the considerations of money, property, and social rank; marrying outside of social class was frowned upon.
The first Mrs. Weston died when Frank was a young boy. As a captain in the army, Mr. Weston had no way to provide or care for the child. As a result, he agrees for Frank to be adopted and raised by his wife's childless brother, Mr. Churchill; he is a wealthy land owner who can provide handsomely for the child. Mr. Weston stays in contact with Frank and has him come to visit him in London each year. Now he is anxious for Frank to come to Highbury and meet the new Mrs. Weston, Frank's stepmother. The Westons are disappointed that Frank has written a letter rather than coming for a personal visit.
The incident of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake is included to add humor to the story and to show Mr. Woodhouse's fetish for issues of health. He consults Dr. Perry about the townspeople eating stale cake, and the doctor agrees it is not wise. Humor when all the Perry children are seen eating a slice of the wedding-cake.
Mr. Woodhouse enjoys his evening visitors. Knightley and Weston visit Woodhouse out of respect and regard for him. Clergyman Elton visits Woodhouse in order to be amongst the social elite and to see Emma. Mrs. and Miss Bates are brought in a carriage specially ordered for them by Mr. Woodhouse. Mrs. Bates is the wife of a former clergyman of Highbury. Her daughter, Miss Bates, is a middle-aged spinster who takes care of her old mother; an extremely talkative person, given to gossip, Miss Bates often provides humor in the story. Mrs. Goddard also comes to visit; she is the mistress of a Boarding school for girls, which was financed by Woodhouse. Emma often invites the women to play card games and entertain her father with their light chatter.
One morning Mrs. Goddard sends Emma a note, seeking permission to bring Harriet Smith, a seventeen-year-old boarder in her school, to Hartfield. Emma immediately sends an invitation to Harriet. Upon her arrival, Emma is impressed by Harriet's pretty looks, blue eyes, and fair hair. On learning that Harriet is the "natural daughter of somebody" (in other words, an illegitimate child of a wealthy man), Emma decides to take Harriet under her care and help her acquire the social graces of the upper class.
Jane Austen underlines the nature of the Highbury hierarchical society. Since Knightley and Weston are landed gentlemen, they are treated as equals by Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. Elton is tolerated since he belongs to the clergy. Mrs. and Miss Bates and Mrs. Goddard are patronized in a condescending manner by the Mr. Woodhouse. They are brought and sent home in a carriage and offered generous portions of food, hinting that they cannot quite take care of themselves since they are obviously not part of the upper class. Harriet Smith, a boarding student, is also patronized by Emma, who wants to teach the pretty young girl the manners of the upper class so she can rise socially.