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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 50

Summary

When Emma enters her house, she is "in an exquisite flutter of happiness." When tea is served, she makes all efforts to play the perfect hostess. Mr. Woodhouse, who does not know of the engagement of his daughter, speaks to Knightley in his usual manner and suspects nothing.

At nighttime, the matured Emma reflects on her responsibilities as a daughter and as a friend. Although she has not discussed it with Knightley, she is resolved never to leave her father; the answer is to remain engaged to Knightley as long as her father lives. Emma also resolves to inform Harriet about her engagement by writing her a letter; she will then arrange to send Harriet out of Highbury to spend some time with Isabella in London so she can recover. The next morning, Knightley comes to breakfast and remains with Emma for half an hour. Emma also writes a letter to Harriet and reads one written by Frank and forwarded to Hartfield by Mrs. Weston. In the letter, he apologizes for his pretentious and deceitful attentions to Emma and explains that his engagement was kept secret due to the difficulties at Enscombe caused by Mrs. Churchill's illness. In order to hide his engagement from everyone in Highbury, he pretended to be attracted to Emma; since she seemed indifferent to him, he did not think that his flirting mattered. He now realizes that it was deceitful to both Emma and Jane and very self-serving. He is extremely sorry for the embarrassment he has caused both young ladies.

Frank then explains that the piano, a gift from him to Jane, was kept a secret even from Jane. He knew that Jane would not have agreed to accept it from him, for she is a very proper young lady. It is Jane's sense of propriety that upset her when she saw Frank flirting with Emma. To defend his behavior, he accused Jane of being cold. Their misunderstanding made Jane decide to break the engagement and accept the position of governess with the Smallridges. Jane's letter to him, explaining her actions, arrived on the day of Mrs. Churchill's death. He had replied to her letter within the hour, but in the confusion of funeral preparations, he had forgotten to send it. He soon received a parcel from Jane with all of his letters to her enclosed; there was also a note expressing her surprise at not receiving a reply from Frank.


Realizing his mistake, Frank knew he had to act quickly. He spoke with his uncle and gained permission to marry Jane. He then rushed to Highbury and reconciled with her. The letter ends with Frank's appreciation for the kindness of Mrs. Weston and acknowledgement that he is truly a child of fortune, as Emma has previously suggested.

Notes

Jane Austen's use of letters to advance the plot is very dramatic. Through them, she allows her characters to express their feeling without emotionalism. As a realistic writer, she is not an enemy of emotions, but of romanticism and emotionalism. Frank's letter to Mrs. Weston, that she sends for Emma to read, is meant to clear the doubts about his character and explain his improper behavior. The tone of Frank's letter convinces Mrs. Weston of his sincere repentance for his deceitful actions. He now knows that his double- dealings could have easily ruined his future happiness with Jane; they also could have destroyed Emma if she had been a weak- willed or simple-minded. Fortunately, everything is working out well. Frank and Jane have reconciled and plan to marry. Emma has abandoned her vain ways and self-delusion. Finally, Knightley, recognizing the dramatic change in Emma, proposes marriage to her.

CHAPTER 51

Summary

Emma reacts favorably to Frank's letter. Though Emma condemns Frank for his deceitful behavior, she forgives him because he has repented for it, is grateful to Mrs. Weston for her kindness, and is deeply in love with Jane. When Knightley comes to Hartfield, Emma gives him Frank's letter to read; he is completely indifferent to it and believes Frank cannot fix his errors so easily. It is obvious that he has nothing but contempt for Frank. He also condemns Jane for accepting the piano and agreeing to a secret engagement. In spite of his feeling about the pair, he hopes that Knightley and Jane are happy in their marriage.

Knightley then tells Emma in a very unaffected and forthright manner that he will be anxious about her father when they marry. Emma tells him that she thinks she cannot leave her father as long as he is alive. Knightley appreciates Emma's daughterly duty and love and proposes that the two of them should live at Hartfield with her father. Emma is delighted by Knightley's concern and solution. Emma's only worry now is young and naïve Harriet, who has been in love with three men in a year.

Notes

This chapter does much to develop the outstanding nature of Knightley. His comments on Frank's letter reveal him to be an upright and unaffected gentleman; he lives not only by the set of social values imposed on him, but also by the set of moral values that he imposes on himself through his conscience and sensibility. He is extremely sensitive to others and is concerned how Emma's father will be affected by the marriage of his daughter. Knightley's love for Emma is so intense and so thoroughly noble that he is prepared to sacrifice his own independence and way of living; he suggests that he and Emma live at Hartfield with her father, so he will not feel abandoned and alone. Emma is very appreciative of his unaffected kindness and thoughtfulness.

Frank's double standards and deceitfulness naturally disgust Knightley. He tells Emma that the sincerity of their relationship is much more beautiful than the cunning and finesse of Frank. Emma, however, feels that she has not yet been truthful with Harriet. She pities the poor girl for having loved and lost three men in a year. It was easy for Harriet to forget Elton, because of his rude and mean behavior towards her. She will have more trouble getting over Knightley, especially since he is marrying her best friend.

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