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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 25

Summary

On the third day after his arrival in Highbury, Frank Churchill goes to London for a haircut. The Westons tell Emma that suddenly at breakfast Frank sent for a carriage and said that he would return by dinnertime. It is obvious that the Westons do not approve of the trip to London, which interrupts Frank's stay with them. The reader questions what is the real purpose for the trip.

Emma is not discouraged by Frank's strange behavior, especially since Mr. Weston has given her the impression that Frank thinks she is charming. Emma definitely thinks that he must be falling in love with her, and she is delighted, for she finds her very attractive. In fact, Knightley is the only one in Highbury who disapproves of Frank and calls him a "trifling, silly fellow."

The Coles are a family who are merchants in London, but they have lived in Highbury for the last ten years. Because of their wealth, the Coles are accepted amongst the landed gentry of the town and often entertain them. They plan a large dinner party. When Emma hears about it, she thinks about declining the invitation since she considers the Coles to be socially inferior to her. When Emma learns that she is not included on the guest list, her ego is hurt, and she becomes very anxious to attend the party, especially since the Westons, the Knightleys, and Frank Churchill will be there. She asks Mrs. Weston why she had not been invited to the party. Mrs. Weston tells Emma that the Coles know about Mr. Woodhouse's dislike for large and late parties; they felt that Emma would not attend without her father. Mrs. Weston obviously says something about Emma to Mrs. Cole, for she finally receives an invitation. Even though Mr. Woodhouse does not want to attend, Emma is determined to accept the invitation. Mrs. Weston persuades Mr. Woodhouse to permit Emma to go with them.


Notes

Frank's haircut appears to be just an excuse, and everyone is sure that he has another motive in visiting London for half a day. Emma, however, is not critical of his behavior. She deludes herself into believing that Frank is falling in love with her. In truth, he is simply playing on Emma's emotions so that he can use her as he needs.

Emma's reaction to the Coles' party reveals that Emma lacks culture and refinement. When she hears about the party, she thinks about declining the invitation as an affront to Coles, whom she feels are her social inferiors. When Emma is excluded from the guest list, she is shocked and quizzes Mrs. Weston for the reason. Now Emma really wants to go to the party, especially since Frank will be there. The whole situation of the party is ironic, for instead of Emma teaching the Coles a lesson for trying to elevate themselves socially, Emma is personally affronted by them when she is originally excluded from the party.

CHAPTER 26

Summary

Frank Churchill returns from London after dinner. When others criticize the frivolity of the trip, Emma always defends Frank. Now that she has an invitation, Emma looks forward to the Coles' party, hoping to get to know Frank better there.

On the night of the party, Emma and Knightley happen to arrive at the Coles' house at the same time. Emma is pleased to see Knightley arriving in his carriage, befitting his social status. Knightley tells Emma that in the Coles' drawing room she might not have appreciated his gentlemanliness. Emma assures him that she would have definitely noticed his presence though he had always been very unaffected in his manners. Emma is happy to enter the Coles' house in Knightley's company and is pleased with the respect she receives, especially from the Westons. Frank Churchill greets Emma cheerfully and sits beside her at dinner.

During dinner Mrs. Cole tells about the new piano she has seen in the house of Miss Bates. Miss Bates explains that it came as a gift for Jane, but that they do not know for sure who sent it. Miss Bates thinks that Colonel Campbell must be responsible. Since the Coles also have a big piano, they suggest playing it after dinner.

The gift of a piano to Jane further stimulates Emma's imagination. She thinks Mr. Dixon is surely the donor. Emma foolishly confides in Frank her understanding of the relation between Jane and Dixon, suggesting he has fallen in love with Jane after his marriage to Miss Campbell. Emma refers to the incident of Jane's being saved from drowning by him at Weymouth. Frank tells Emma that he was one of the boating party present and assures her there is no romantic affair between Dixon and Jane. Frank also states that Colonel Campbell has probably given Jane the piano to show his parental love towards her.

After dinner, the party gathers in the drawing room, where Emma is much impressed by the dignified and graceful bearing of Jane. She is also delighted that Frank sits beside her, convincing her even more that she is the object of Frank's love. She does notice, however, that Frank looks intently across the room at Jane. On being questioned about his staring, he tells Emma that Jane's strange hair-do has aroused his curiosity. He then goes over to Jane, pretending to ask about her hair.

After Frank gets up, Mrs. Weston comes and sits beside Emma. She informs her that Knightley has brought Miss Bates and Jane in his carriage and will also take them home. Emma wonders if Knightley might have an interest in Jane; as a result, she firmly asserts that he must not marry, because it would deprive her nephews of inheriting the Donwell estate. Emma is certain, however, that Knightley would never degrade himself by marrying Jane. She knows he could not tolerate having Miss Bates for a relative. Emma is shocked when Mrs. Weston suggests that perhaps Knightley has sent Jane the piano since he admires her singing and playing. Emma disputes this suggestion, saying that Knightley does not like to do anything mysteriously. With great irony, Emma, accuses Mrs. Weston of allowing her fancy to run wild by taking up such an idea.

The debate between Emma and Mrs. Weston is cut short when Mr. Cole requests Emma to play. Emma readily goes to the piano, and Frank joins her in singing, which takes Emma by surprise. After Emma is done, Jane is asked to play. Emma notices that Knightley is listening attentively while Jane sings and then praises her performance.

When Emma talks to Knightley about Jane's piano, she is convinced that he has not sent it. She is surprised, however, when Knightley gently warns Jane to sing no more after her voice cracks. Frank, however, asks her to sing one more, which annoys Knightley. After the singing, dancing is proposed. Frank approaches Emma, and the two of them are the first on the dance floor. Knightley does not dance, which makes Emma extremely happy. She is now convinced that Knightley has no interest in Jane.

Notes

Jane Austen is successful in creating the party atmosphere where people are more at ease. The ladies present at the party indulge in small talk and gossip, as evidenced by Mrs. Cole's account of the large, new piano at Miss Bates. Miss Bates explains that it is a gift to Jane from an unnamed donor. Everyone at the party guesses at who has sent it. Austen stimulates the reader's curiosity by making the piano an object of mystery, similar to Elton's riddle on courtship.

Emma's imagination continues to run wild in this chapter. She is certain that Mr. Dixon is Jane's lover and has sent her the piano anonymously to hide his involvement. She is also convinced that Frank is in love with her, since he has sat with her at dinner and in the drawing room afterwards. Emma does notice, however, that Frank seems to take an interest in Jane. Knightley also shows an interest in her. He has called for Jane and Miss Bates in his carriage and also plans to take them home. Emma, however, believes that Knightley will never have an interest in Jane because of her being lower on the social scale.

Emma, who is favorably inclined towards Frank Churchill, takes pride in the fact that he shows more interest in her than in pretty Jane. Emma also imagines herself an object of others' envy since Frank has seated himself by her at dinner and in the drawing room. Emma concludes he must find her a better dancer than Jane.

One finds that Emma's romantic fancy regarding Frank begins to weaken when Mrs. Weston expresses her suspicions about Knightley's relations with Jane. She is no doubt jealous of Jane, and now she finds Jane her rival in her relations with Knightley. Jane Austen foreshadows that Emma, who has involved herself on the imaginative level with Frank, is really attracted to Knightley, whom she admires for his openness, maturity, and unaffected manners. That is why she is pleased to see Knightley arrive in a carriage like a gentleman and feels elated at entering the Coles' house with him. Emma and Knightley, who have always been good friends, are not yet able to interpret their feelings for each other. But Emma knows that she does not want Knightley to marry anyone, and her flimsy argument is that her nephews must not be denied the property of Donwell.

Frank's behavior is certainly undesirable, and Knightley correctly recognizes him as a shallow man. Frank feeds Emma's fancy and behaves in a way to make her think she is the object of his attention. He even ridicules Jane to please Emma.

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