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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The Westons invite the Woodhouses, the Knightleys, Elton, and Harriet to a dinner party on Christmas Eve. A day before the dinner, Harriet develops fever and a sore throat. Emma visits Harriet to cheer her up and tells her that she will surely be well the next day to attend the party. On her return, Emma meets Elton, who talks to her about Harriet's sickness. Elton tells Emma to have Harriet treated by Dr. Perry, but warns her to take care of herself to prevent getting an infection from Harriet. When Emma suggests that Elton stay behind and look after the sick Harriet, Elton shows his willingness.
John Knightley passes by and, since the weather is bad, offers Elton a ride in his carriage, which Elton accepts. When Elton parts from Emma, John Knightley suggests to her that it is she who is the object of Elton's gallantry and good will. Emma asserts that they are only good friends.
The weather gets worse, and it begins to snow. Mr. Woodhouse is still determined to go to Randalls for the dinner party. As previously planned, John Knightley and Emma pick up Elton on their way to Randalls. In the carriage, Elton's high spirits and excessive gallantry take Emma by surprise. He also reports on Dr. Perry's visit to Harriet, who is feeling worse.
Emma, though otherwise intelligent and a good judge of people, fails to recognize that Elton is in love with her. She believes only what she wants to believe, and she thinks that Elton is surely in love with Harriet, as she has planned. Emma is a little mystified, however, that Elton is not more concerned with Harriet's health. When John Knightley suggests Elton's infatuation is with Emma, she dismisses the judgement and says that they are only friends. It is ironic that Emma refuses to listen to the wise Knightley.
In this chapter, Jane Austen is critical of the provincial community in Highbury which gives undue importance to socializing. Even the old Mr. Woodhouse, in spite of the cold weather and the possibility of a heavy snowfall, refuses to cancel their visit to Randalls. Only John Knightley considers parties to be social impositions. He looks forward to the party at Randalls being over early so that he can return and be comfortable at Hartfield.
Emma tries to be her cheerful self at Randalls, but she is upset that Elton seats himself close to her. Emma is relieved when Mr. Weston comes and sits next to her. He is concerned that his son Frank may cancel his planned visit for the second week of January.
Emma, for the first time, realizes that perhaps John Knightley's observation about Elton's being in love with her is correct. His attentions to her and his sitting close to her at dinner make her think that Elton has transferred his affections from Harriet to her. Emma tries to dismiss such thoughts as absurd for she is not prepared to accept that her own plan of bringing Elton and Harriet together has been based on her wrong judgement of Elton's character.
To defend herself against Elton, Emma begins to think romantically about Frank Churchill, whom she has never seen. She wonders why the young gentlemen has not come to Randalls to visit his father and new step-mother. She refuses to agree with Mrs. Weston, who tries to defend Frank's postponement of his visit. In Emma's opinion, no young man should ever find it difficult to free himself from impositions of any nature to do what he thinks is right. Emma wonders if he is shy about meeting his father's wife or if he is simply a secretive, selfish young man.
Emma's self-delusion and romantic fantasies are seen once again in this chapter. Although she has never met Frank Churchill, she imagines that she will fall in love with him simply because he matches her age and social position.