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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 42

Summary

Since Mrs. Weston is expecting a baby, Emma and Mr. Weston arrange a picnic on Box Hill to celebrate. Mr. Weston invites the Eltons to attend, although it displeases Emma. When the Elton's horse becomes lame, the picnic is postponed until the horse is better. Mrs. Elton expresses such a disappointment over the postponement in front of Knightley that he gallantly invites her to come to Donwell. She boldly asks to bring Jane and invite other guests. Knightley cuts her short and says, "There is one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite guests as she pleases to Donwell." Knightley then tells her that the person would be Mrs. Knightley, his future wife; until he is married, he plans to manage such matters himself.

Knightley's words do not stop the rude Mrs. Elton. She tells Knightley that she would bring Miss Bates and Jane, and he can invite the Woodhouses. Mrs. Elton then suggests that it can be a gypsy party, where everyone is given a basket for gathering strawberries from his garden. After a short rest under the trees, she suggests that dinner be served indoors. Mrs. Elton is even forward enough to offer Knightley the services of her housekeeper, which he promptly refuses. The obnoxious Mrs. Elton then expresses a desire for reaching Donwell riding a donkey, while Mr. E walks by her side.

Emma has not visited Donwell in two years and is impressed with the gentility she finds there. She feels proud of the house, the gardens, and meadows and is glad that some day her nephews may own the estate. While everyone is collecting strawberries, Mrs. Elton chatters. Emma overhears her insisting that Jane accept the governess job with the cousin of her brother-in-law; but Jane refuses the offer. Nevertheless, Mrs. Elton tells Jane that she would be sending the letter of acceptance on Jane's behalf tomorrow, which makes Jane feel totally fed up with her rudeness. Emma also notices Harriet and Knightley walking and talking together, which makes Emma feels uneasy. When she joins them, she is relieved to hear they are talking about agriculture.


When everyone goes inside for dinner, Mrs. Weston is worried about Frank, who has not yet arrived. After dinner, everyone goes to see the fishponds, except Emma and her father. When Emma strolls out into the hall, Jane comes in and is surprised to see Emma. Jane tells her that she is going home by herself and asks Emma to inform the others about her departure. Emma kindly offers Jane the carriage, but she insists on walking, saying she wants to be alone. Emma pities Jane for being always in the company of her aunt.

Fifteen minutes after Jane's departure, Frank enters the room. He tells Emma that he was delayed because of Mrs. Churchill's illness. He also says that he passed Jane on his way. Because of the heat, he is not hungry and wants no dinner. He says something about a beer and walks off. Emma realizes that she is not at all in love with him; she could never love a person who is so easily upset.

Later, Frank is in a better mood and participates in party conversation. He remarks that he is tired of England and plans to go abroad as soon as Mrs. Churchill gets well. Emma then invites Frank to join them for the picnic to Box Hill, which has been rescheduled for the next day; he accepts the offer, saying it is to please her. When the party returns to the house from the fish ponds, they are happy to see Frank, but are sad to learn about Jane's departure for home.

Notes

Jane Austen develops her characters through her own descriptions, through Emma's consciousness, or through Knightley's comments. In this chapter, Mr. Weston's sociability is depicted as he plans the Box Hill picnic. Mrs. Elton is criticized by Emma, who objects to her inclusion in the picnic, but agrees out of respect for Mrs. Weston's sensibilities. Knightley cuts Mrs. Elton's ego to its proper size when he tells her that no woman will plan a guest list for a Donwell party other than his future wife. Undaunted by his comments, Mrs. Elton is bold enough to tell him a bit tauntingly that he may invite the Hartfield family himself since he is very much attached to it; but she insists on bringing Jane and Miss Bates with her. Knightley again puts her in her place, telling her that he will no doubt invite the Woodhouses, but he will also extend the invitation to Miss Bates. Knightley is more convinced than ever that she is a truly vulgar woman.

As if Mrs. Elton has not made enough of a fool of herself, she continues in her ridiculous fantasizing, that is much more fantastic than that of Emma. She suggests that Knightley's gathering be a "gypsy" party. She also imagines herself riding a donkey to the party with her husband walking at her side. Jane Austen realistically paints Augusta as a totally foolish character that is almost comic in her vulgarity.

In this chapter, Knightley again hints that he is thinking of marriage. At the end of the Crown Inn ball, he tells Emma what he expects in a good wife. He wants her to possess not only good sense, but also frankness and openness. In this chapter, he shows the respect he would give to his wife when he makes it clear to Mrs. Elton that Mrs. Knightley alone will have the privilege of being hostess to one of his parties.

Emma's pleasure at visiting Donwell, surveying the grounds from the hall, and admiring the scenic beauty of the gardens and meadows suggests that quite subconsciously she aspires to be the mistress of this estate. She feels proud of the Knightley family, known in Highbury for its respectability and gentility, and is glad that her family is attached to it through Isabella's marriage. When Emma she sees Knightley conversing with Harriet, she feels a little uneasy; there is obviously some jealousy that another woman can attract Knightley's attention, even if it is her good friend. Emma is not too worried, however, because she is quite convinced that Harriet is now drawn to Frank.

The unexpected disappearance of Jane Fairfax from the party without any explanation introduces an element of suspense. When Frank arrives fifteen minutes after her departure, the reader assumes she has gone out in search of him, especially since she insisted on walking home. Frank, who admits he has seen Jane on the way, is in a bad temper. He complains of the heat and objects to parties being arranged on summer days. Emma advises him to go to the dining room and refresh himself with food and drink. When his spirits improve, Frank talks about going abroad. He also agrees to join the Box Hill picnic the next day since Emma has personally asked him; this makes Emma feel that he is still interested in her, as well as Harriet.

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