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Notes on Characters from Emma

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Emma Major Characters

Emma Woodhouse: The daughter of Mr. Woodhouse, and sister to Isabella. Emma is beautiful, clever, and rich. She can be generous and caring, as in her behavior to her father and the poor family she visits. But she is also a snob, and she does not always suppress her honesty. She has good intentions with Harriet Smith, whom she befriends and tries to improve. But she ignores the girl's questionable origins and elevates her to a place where she is comfortable and acceptable nowhere. Emma has a strong imagination, and it often gets her in trouble. She loves matchmaking, and she looks so hard for clues that she will often manufacture them. Such is the case for Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton, then Harriet and Frank Churchill, then Harriet and Mr. Knightley. She also likes to gossip, and she invents an affair between Jane Fairfax and Mr. Dixon. She is a romantic, and this attention to the hearts of others keeps her from examining her own. When she does, she realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley. He loves her too, and they marry. Emma Woodhouse experiences a great reversal in character. When she insults Miss Bates at Box Hill, Mr. Knightley's reprimand really shames her. Emma reexamines not just this, but all her behavior. She sees how poorly she acted toward Jane Fairfax, Harriet Smith, and Miss Bates. The next morning she makes amends with Miss Bates, and she tries to help Jane Fairfax. Emma distances herself from Harriet, fearful she will hurt her again. Good conduct becomes her new goal, and she hopes to become a better person. She is rewarded with Mr. Knightley.

Mr. Woodhouse: Isabella and Emma's father. He is an old man, accustomed to the doting attention of his youngest daughter. He hates change, and therefore greets marriage as a misery. With little else to do he obsesses about his health and the health of others, making him a terrible hypochondriac. He is in constant conversation with Mr. Perry, the town doctor, as rich food, a slight drizzle, or a tiny breeze can send him into a panic. He shares his fears with all around him, and they often affect social engagements. He does not like big parties, or late nights. Mostly his good-natured friends accommodate him. His worry is incessant, and he would likely have a terrible life if not for his daughter. Emma humors him, cares for him, and tries to keep him busy with visits from friends and family.

Isabella Woodhouse/ Mrs. John Knightley: The eldest daughter of Mr. Woodhouse. She has been married for several years, and lives in London. Mr. Woodhouse greatly regrets her loss, and speaks of her as though she were dead or in prison, instead of happily married. She and her husband get along well, and she loves being a wife and mother. She shares her father's obsessive concerns about illness, which her husband stands as best he can.

Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston: Emma's governess, she becomes Mrs. Weston at the start of the novel. As Miss Taylor the governess had some influence over the headstrong Miss Woodhouse, but she was more friend than teacher. She is a kind, wonderful woman, and has the respect of all of Highbury.

Mr. Weston: The good-natured man who marries Miss Taylor. He is also the father of Frank Churchill. He and Emma are good friends, but Mr. Weston is so agreeable that one could say he is good friends with everyone.

Mr. George Knightley: Mr. George Knightley is an old friend of the Woodhouse family. His house is nearby, and he pays many casual visits to Hartfield. He has known Emma since she was a child, and he has always advised her to do right. Emma did not always appreciate his advice, but he was always there for her. A kind, generous, but also rational man, he was the only person who would ever point out Emma's faults. Also her protector, Mr. Knightley became concerned about her behavior with Frank Churchill. Mr. Knightley did not like the young man, and would only later realize he was jealous of him. He guessed the secret engagement with Miss Fairfax, and he was happy to hear that Emma was not in love with Mr. Churchill, for both their sakes. Mrs. Weston wanted to pair him with Jane Fairfax, and Harriet fell in love with him herself. But despite his kind and gracious behavior to Harriet at the dance, his heart only belonged to Emma. When he finally told her, he learned his love was happily returned. Anxious to marry her, he offered to move to Hartfield, to make things easier on her father. Mr. Knightley is the kindest, most attractive man in the novel, and he and Emma finally marry.

Mr. John Knightley: George's brother, and husband to Isabella Woodhouse. He is generally a good man, but he can be irritable or ill tempered. He does not have much patience for either his wife or his father-in-law's hypochondria. He prefers to be at home, and parties make him uncomfortable. He is the first to guess that Mr. Elton has feelings for Emma, and later he is not surprised to hear of his brother's engagement to Emma. Despite Emma's claims to matchmaking, it seems like Mr. John Knightley is a much better judge of the human heart.

Mr. Elton: The town preacher. Beloved by all, yet he is not married. He falls in love with Emma, who wants him to marry Harriet. He is offended at this suggestion, and leaves town. When he returns it is with a new wife. Where once Emma saw a kind man, there is now smugness, resentment, and vanity. He believes his wife superior to Miss Woodhouse, and the couple never misses a chance to slight Emma or her friend.

Frank Churchill: The foppish son of Mr. Weston and his first wife. His aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, raised him. Under the care of his aunt, he is also subject to her whims. She uses her illness to manipulate him, and his visits to Highbury are at her mercy. But he also plans his visit around Miss Fairfax. He met her in Weymouth, and the two entered a secret engagement. The Westons hope he will marry Emma, so to divert attention from his secret, he flirts with her. He is not heartless, and claims he only flirted with her because he thought Emma knew his secret. Frank Churchill is charming and attractive, and for a brief period Emma thinks herself in love. Then she tries, unsuccessfully, to attach him to Miss Smith. Luckily it did not work, because soon after Mrs. Churchill's death the engagement is revealed. Frank Churchill begs forgiveness, and receives it. Despite his often-poor treatment of Jane, she agreed to marry him, and the two are very much in love.

Miss Bates: The town chatterbox. She is a sweet woman, and everyone loves her. Though she is not married, pretty, or rich, she has the respect and admiration of everyone. Emma finds her constant babbling annoying, and during the Box Hill party she insults Miss Bates. So wonderful is this woman that she does not get angry with Emma; rather she blames herself, and thinks Miss Woodhouse wonderful for putting up with her. It was very wrong for Emma to insult Miss Bates, who is so inferior in class to her. Emma seeks her forgiveness the next day, and gains it, of course.

Harriet Smith: The pretty but dull young woman whom Emma adopts as a sort of remodeling project. She is a boarder at Mrs. Goddard's, but her parentage is unknown. Emma thinks she must be from an aristocratic family, and soon Harriet believes this lie. Emma wants to improve her friend, and though she has good intentions, this elevation hurts Harriet. She refuses a proposal from Mr. Martin, whom Emma believes to be too low-class. Then Emma encourages her to set her sights on Mr. Elton. But the preacher falls in love with Emma, scorning Harriet as too low class. After this disaster, Emma tries to leave Harriet's love life alone. But two things happen to Harriet--she is saved by Mr. Knightley one day, Mr. Churchill the next. At the Crown Inn dance, when Mr. Elton refuses to dance with Harriet, Mr. Knightley comes along and asks her. Several days later, Mr. Churchill saves Harriet from some gypsies. Emma is sure Harriet is in love with Frank, so she encourages the girl to hope. But it is really Mr. Knightley she loves, and Harriet is to be disappointed again when Mr. Knightley and Emma proclaim their love. But luckily Harriet is not distressed, because Mr. Martin has proposed to her again, and she has accepted. Often indecisive, in the absence of Miss Woodhouse Harriet was able to make the best decision of her life.

the Martin family: The family of farmers who befriend Harriet. She spends several months with them before she meets Miss Woodhouse, and she and Mr. Martin grow to like each other. But after hearing Miss Woodhouse's opinions on his status, Harriet treats the family badly and refuses Mr. Martin's proposal. She stops visiting, and when she does, it is considered an insult. They are forgiving, however; the daughter Elizabeth breaks the ice, and Mr. Martin eventually proposes again. The second time he is accepted.

Mr. Martin: The farmer who loves Harriet. He proposes to her twice, he loves her so much. Emma thinks him too low class, but Harriet finally decides to marry him, and it is considered a good match.

Jane Fairfax: The orphaned daughter of Miss Jane Bates and Lieutenant Fairfax. A friend of her father's took her into his family and paid for her education, hoping to secure her a good position as a governess. With no dowry, she cannot expect to marry. But she falls in love with Frank Churchill, and the two become secretly engaged. Jane takes a governess position after she and Frank have a fight, but after Mrs. Churchill's death, he and Jane are able to marry. Jane is a beautiful, elegant, accomplished girl. Emma does not like her, though she cannot come up with a reason. Mr. Knightley thinks she is jealous, and Emma later realizes she is. When Emma realizes her error she does all she can to correct it, despite Jane's cold reception of her attempts.

Miss Hawkins/Mrs. Elton: The conceited social climber whom Mr. Elton marries. She thinks herself high class, though her only claim to greatness is her brother-in-law's fortune. She likes to be the center of attention and showcase how elegant, intelligent, and talented she is. Actually none of these things, Emma thinks she is an awful person. Everyone else puts up with her, but Emma finds this upstart an affront to her position, and is less forgiving. Mrs. Elton does not like Emma either, for many of the same reasons Emma does not like her.

Minor Characters

Mrs. Woodhouse: The mother of Emma and Isabella, and wife to Mr. Woodhouse. She died when Emma was young, and is scarcely a memory. Miss Taylor was employed to perform some of the motherly duties, but without a real mother Emma soon became the mistress of the house.

James: The trusted carriage driver for the Woodhouse family.

Hannah: The daughter of James, the Woodhouse's carriage driver. Emma found the girl a job at Randalls, the nearby estate, so she could be by her father. This was a very kind thing for her to do, to take such an interest in a servant.

Miss Churchill/Mrs. Weston : Daughter of the Churchill's, wife to Mr. Weston, and mother of Frank Churchill. She loved Mr. Weston, but her marriage to him had angered her family and caused a rift. Therefore she was forced into a life less elegant, without any help from her family. She missed her old way of life, and lived so extravagantly that Mr. Weston lost much of his money. When she died, the Churchill's offered to take the boy and raise him, and Mr. Weston agreed.

Mr. Churchill: The meek husband of Mrs. Churchill, and uncle to Frank. He and his wife raised Frank. Mr. Churchill goes along with his wife's demands, and loves her very much. But at her death he emerges as capable of making his own decisions, and agrees to let Frank marry Jane.

Mrs. Churchill: The ill aunt of Frank Churchill, who helped raise him. She uses her illnesses to manipulate her nephew and husband into doing her will. No one likes her very much, nor her hold on Frank Churchill. She often calls Frank away at inconvenient times, because she knows she can. After her death, Frank is able to make his engagement to Miss Fairfax public.

Mr. Perry: The doctor whom Mr. Woodhouse constantly consults. His advice is strictly adhered to, even to the point of folly. Mr. Perry is also the subject of a disclosure suggesting Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill may be attached. Mr. Fairfax had knowledge of Mr. Perry's possible purchase of a carriage, which he could only have gotten from Jane. This suggests a secret correspondence, which in this time period is equivalent to being engaged.

Mrs. Bates: The old deaf widowed mother of Miss Bates.

Mrs. Goddard: The mistress of the school Harriet Smith attends. Harriet boards with her, living at her home.

Miss Nash: One of the teachers at Mrs. Goddard's, and one of the many who sing Mr. Elton's praises.

Henry Knightley: The oldest son of Isabella and John Knightley. Emma fears that if Mr. Knightley were to marry, little Henry would lose much of his inheritance. Emma sees this as a good reason for Mr. Knightley to remain single, but when she falls in love with him, this reason is forgotten.

John Knightley, Junior: One of Isabella and John's children.

Mr. Wingfield: The doctor Isabella Knightley consults with in London.

Colonel and Mrs. Campbell: Friends of Lieutenant Fairfax, they took on the cost of Jane's education. She lived with them as a member of their family, until the marriage of their daughter. Jane's education was meant to secure her a place as a governess, and that will soon be her fate.

Mr. Cole: The husband of Mrs. Cole, they are a couple best described as nouveau riche. They believe that their gains in money also give them gains in class, and they like to invite the gentry to their dinners and parties. Emma is offended at such boldness, and she plans on refusing any invitation. But when one finally comes and she sees that all her friends are going, she agrees to go herself.

Mrs. Cole: The wife of Mr. Cole.

Miss Campbell/Mrs. Dixon: The daughter of Colonel and Mrs. Campbell, she is the best friend of Jane Fairfax. Jane came to live with them in her youth, and the two, being of the same age, became friends. But Miss Campbell falls in love with Mr. Dixon, and after the two marry Jane will soon become a governess.

Mr. Dixon: The Irishman who married Miss Campbell, the daughter of Colonel Campbell, Miss Fairfax's benefactor. He once saved Miss Fairfax from drowning, and Emma imagines that they are in love. She shares this piece of invented gossip with Frank Churchill, not knowing he was attached to Miss Fairfax. The name 'Dixon' becomes a secret code, one with which Mr. Churchill teases Jane.

Lieutenant Fairfax: The father of Jane Fairfax. He married her mother, Miss Jane Bates, but died in battle soon after his daughter was born.

Miss Jane Bates: The youngest daughter of Mrs. Bates, and the sister to our Miss Bates. She married Lieutenant Fairfax, who died in battle. Miss Jane Bates also died, soon after giving birth to Jane Fairfax.

Elizabeth Martin: The sister of Mr. Martin, the farmer who proposed to Harriet. The family are farmers, and of lower class, but Elizabeth treats Harriet with polite kindness even after Harriet rejects her brother.

the Coxes: A lower class family in Highbury, they are friends with the Bates and the Eltons.

Mr. Suckling: The husband of Selina Hawkins, Mrs. Elton's sister. He is a rich man, with a great house and an elegant carriage. Mrs. Elton refers to him often, in the hope of elevating herself.

Selina Hawkins/Mrs. Suckling: The sister of Mrs. Elton. Selina married well, and her good fortune is a source of pride and vanity for Mrs. Elton.

Miss Bickerton: A boarder at Mrs. Goddard's school. She and Harriet are out walking when they are attacked by a band of gypsies. Miss Bickerton runs away, leaving Harriet to fend for herself.

Anna Weston: The baby born to Mr. and Mrs. Weston.

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