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Free Study Guide-Emma by Jane Austen-Free Online Chapter Summary Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Emma encourages Harriet to visit Hartfield often and makes the girl her companion for her morning walks. Emma finds that Harriet has a sweet temper, though she is not clever; she is, however, willing to be guided by Emma. During their walks, Emma learns that Harriet has spent two months with the Martins of Abbey Mill Farm and that Robert Martin, the twenty-four year old son, is in love with her. Emma feels that Harriet is also romantically inclined towards Martin and advises the girl against it. She tells Harriet that a farmer is socially beneath her. Harriet assures Emma that she will surely follow her advice.

When Emma and Harriet happen to meet Robert Martin on the Donwell road, Emma walks a few yards forward to allow Harriet to talk to Martin. Emma finds that he is a sensible young man, but tells Harriet that she finds him extremely plain and lacking gentility. Harriet is obviously hurt by Emma's comments; but Emma insists that Harriet compare Martin's manners with those of the genteel Mr. Weston and Mr. Knightley. Harriet immediately praises Knightley as a fine man, but she can not appreciate Weston, who she judges to be very old. Emma again impresses upon Harriet that Martin lacks class; he may be able to progress financially, due to his common sense, but socially he cannot rise due to his coarse manners and lack of education and interest in learning.


Emma then talks about the men in Highbury. She tells Harriet about Weston's frankness, Knightley's dominating manners, and Elton's good-humored, cheerful, and gentle ways. She then tells Harriet that Elton has paid her compliments, which makes Harriet blush and admit that she has always thought Elton very agreeable. The naïve Emma deceives herself into believing that the Harriet- Elton match would be ideal. She takes it for granted that Elton, though a gentleman, would not object to Harriet being an illegitimate child. Trying to play the matchmaker, Emma thinks of ways to bring the couple together at Hartfield.

Notes

Emma takes on herself the role matchmaker to bring Harriet and Elton closer. Jane Austen, however, exposes Emma self-deception, which is the result of her social snobbery and romantic fancy, combined with her interest in managing others' lives. Though Emma's first reaction when she sees Martin is that he is a sensible young man, she belittles Martin in Harriet's presence, saying that Martin is illiterate and has coarse manners. Emma is deceitful because she wants to be the matchmaker, to have Harriet love Elton and not Martin. By impressing upon Harriet that Martin is socially inferior since he is a farmer, Emma reveals her social snobbery. She also reveals her naiveté; she praises Elton as a fine model of a gentleman, but at the same time assumes that Elton will accept Harriet, an illegitimate daughter of unknown parents.

During the chapter, Emma also shows herself to be intelligent and a good reader of human personality. She speaks of Weston as an open-hearted gentleman who carries his frankness almost to the point of being blunt; she also recognizes that Knightley has a decidedly dominating personality. The fact that Emma does not allow Harriet to speak much about the gentlemanliness of Knightley hints that Emma does not want anyone to rob her of Knightley's special attentions. Emma is, thus, made an object of Jane Austen's irony when she points out that Emma's social snobbery and romantic fancies prevent her from analyzing her own feelings for Knightley.

CHAPTER 5

Summary

Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston have a sort of a debate on Emma's companionship with Harriet Smith. In Knightley's opinion, Emma's companionship with Harriet is not good. If Harriet acquires the social graces of Emma, it will become difficult for Harriet to adjust to her own lower social circle. At the same time, Harriet's flattery of Emma, almost bordering on adoration, is increasing Emma's conceit and self-love. Mrs. Weston disagrees with Knightley. In her opinion, Emma has begun to read more because of her guidance of Harriet. Knightley disputes this point, saying that he has known Emma ever since she was twelve. He admits that Emma is more intelligent than her elder sister Isabella, but claims that Emma is neither hard working nor patient. Instead, she is given to romantic fancies, which she does not try to control with reason. Mrs. Weston argues that Harriet's companionship has cheered Emma and brought an added charm to her physical beauty. Knightley admits that Emma is beautiful and emphasizes that Emma is not vain about her physical appearance but has a false sense of pride about her intellect. Knightley is afraid that Emma's intellectual arrogance and her determination not to marry will create problems for Emma in the future. Mrs. Weston, however, thinks otherwise. She praises Emma for being a good daughter, a kind sister, and a true friend. As for Emma's marriage, she agrees with Knightley that there is at present no young man in Highbury worthy of Emma. Mrs. Weston does not tell Knightley that she and her husband desire Emma to marry Frank Churchill, her stepson.

Notes

Although Mr. Knightley thinks Emma is beautiful, he is not blind to the imperfections in Emma. As a mature man of reason, he knows that Emma is misusing her intelligence and worries that her false arrogance will get her into trouble. He is critical of Emma trying to manage others' lives and is extremely unhappy about Emma's companionship with Harriet; he understands that she is trying to make Harriet aspire for a man above her social position.

It is obvious that Knightley cares deeply for Emma, whom he has known since she was twelve. He wants Emma to rise above elegant manners and self-delusion to love and be loved. His concern seems to suggest that he may have a romantic interest in Emma himself. Perhaps his desire to see her as a perfect young lady who balances her heart with her head is that he would like to see Emma become his wife in the future.

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