Notes on Emma Themes

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Emma Topic Tracking: Guidance

Chapter 1

Guidance 1: Emma takes great pride in having made the match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston. She encouraged Mr. Weston to visit, and was an advocate for their relationship. Though she actually did very little, Emma considers even a lucky guess a success. Emma likes the idea of her being a matchmaker, able to bring lovers together.

Chapter 2

Guidance 2: Mr. Woodhouse is a hypochondriac, and he listens intently to any advice his physician Mr. Perry gives him. Mr. Woodhouse was very worried about his friends and family eating the rich wedding cake, and only a few words from Mr. Perry would help calm him. Unlike his daughter, Mr. Woodhouse can be influenced; he even looks for it.

Chapter 3

Guidance 3: Emma decides to befriend Harriet Smith with the intention of improving her. She would help her both intellectually and socially, becoming her mentor. Emma really likes this idea, and thinks it will be a good project. She has no idea that something she enters into so lightly will affect her new friend so much, in both good ways and bad.

Chapter 4

Guidance 4: After meeting Mr. Martin on the road, Emma fears that Harriet's heart may be slipping. To counteract this, Emma praises Mr. Elton, whom she believes is a better match, and criticizes Mr. Martin. To compare the two men is not fair, but Emma does it anyway. She then goes on to tell Harriet some good things Mr. Elton said about her, which washes Mr. Martin from her friend's mind, at least temporarily.

Chapter 5

Guidance 5: Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston argue about the value of Emma and Harriet's friendship. Mrs. Weston thinks that in improving Harriet, Emma will herself be improved. But Mr. Knightley is not so sure. Certainly Emma can be a strong teacher; Mr. Knightley sees how she trained Miss Taylor to be an obedient wife. Mr. Knightley is the only person who can exert much pressure on Miss Woodhouse.

Chapter 6

Guidance 6: Emma worked to increase Harriet's self-esteem, hoping to make her open to an attachment with Mr. Elton. Before meeting Miss Woodhouse, Harriet never would have thought of such a connection; but Miss Woodhouse's praise raised her sights.

Chapter 8

Guidance 7: In speaking of Harriet Smith, Mr. Knightley remarks how impressionable the girl is: "'Her character depends upon those she is with; but in good hands she will turn out a valuable woman.'" Chapter 8, pg. 53 He fears that a girl so obedient might be lead astray by the imaginative Miss Woodhouse.

Chapter 9

Guidance 8: Harriet does not understand Mr. Elton's charade, so Miss Woodhouse interprets it for her. Emma is so eager to be a matchmaker that she sees only what she wants in the riddle. She ignores clues that lead away from Harriet, and finds only affection for Harriet. The gullible young girl trusts Miss Woodhouse's opinion completely, which turns out to be a dangerous thing to do. Emma's absolute certainty about the match leads Harriet to believe not only that it could happen, but that she deserves it. Emma has wiped out class awareness, but only from Harriet's mind.

Chapter 10

Guidance 9: Emma goes to hilarious lengths to force Harriet and Mr. Elton together. She lags behind, talks to a small child, and finally breaks her own bootlace so they will have to go inside the vicarage. Emma does everything within her power to unite the two, but unfortunately she has little success.

Chapter 13

Guidance 10: Another Knightley, this time John, tries to instruct Emma to alter her behavior. Mr. John Knightley believes that Mr. Elton likes Miss Woodhouse, and he encourages Emma to act more reserved around the preacher. Emma is surprised, as such a thought never entered her mind. She does not heed Mr. Knightley's advice, even though it is very good.

Chapter 16

Guidance 11: After Mr. Elton's confession of love, Emma realizes how badly she led her friend astray. She saw that she had manufactured the affair out of nothing, and now her naive friend was going to get hurt. She had misread the charade, the portrait, all their conversations--she had been wrong on nearly every count. She had convinced Harriet to love this man, when Mr. Martin would have been a good catch. Her guidance ruined Harriet's chances for happiness, despite her good intentions.

Chapter 18

Guidance 12: When Mr. Knightley complains about Frank Churchill's inability to sway his aunt, Emma reminds Mr. Knightley that though he may like to influence "little minds," when such minds belong to wealthy people with a lot of power, they are harder to budge. Emma has seen how easy it is to sway the "little mind" of her friend Harriet, but Mrs. Churchill is no Harriet Smith. The more developed the will, the more accustomed to its' own way, the more difficult the task. The latter point is one reason Emma Woodhouse herself is so hard to govern.

Chapter 22

Guidance 13: Emma, despite the misfortunes she has caused Harriet, still wishes she could manipulate her friend's feelings. But this time she wishes for the power to make her stop loving Mr. Elton, and therefore stop hurting. But Emma was afraid only another object of affection would work to clear her mind, and Emma began searching for a new mate for Harriet.

Chapter 26

Guidance 14: Emma does not use her wits just to influence others. When Mrs. Weston suggests that Mr. Knightley likes Jane Fairfax, and sent her the pianoforte, Emma searches for things to contradict this idea. She settles on the idea that Mr. Knightley is not impulsive and silly, qualities that must describe the sender of the pianoforte. Emma convinces herself, proving again that her reason is sufficient to calm a troubled mind or heart.

Chapter 27

Guidance 15: Harriet Smith is a very indecisive girl. In the absence of Miss Woodhouse, she has trouble deciding what she likes and wants. At Ford's, she is annoyingly indecisive about where to have a package sent, and Emma finally comes up and does it for her.

Chapter 33

Guidance 16: Emma is not the only one trying to sway others. Mrs. Elton pities Jane Fairfax's situation, and tries to convince Emma to join her in helping the young girl. Emma, who doesn't like Jane Fairfax, is not easily swayed. It is the girl's fate to end up a governess, and Emma does know how to change this. Mrs. Elton wants to look for a good family to place Jane with, help which the young woman does not want.

Chapter 40

Guidance 17: Emma, thinking Harriet in love with Frank Churchill, encourages her friend that such an attachment is not impossible. She warns Harriet to be cautious and observant, but not to lose hope. Emma will regret this piece of advice when she learns it is not Frank Churchill whom Harriet loves, but Mr. Knightley!

Chapter 43

Guidance 18: Mr. Knightley, always concerned about Miss Woodhouse, reprimands her when she insults Miss Bates. He has known Emma since she was a child, and he is disappointed to hear her speak so cruelly to an old friend, whose social position is inferior to her own. He does not realize it, but his opinion holds great importance for Emma; she feels ashamed and cries all the way home. The next day she goes to see Miss Bates, thus beginning her transformation into a more sensitive person.

Chapter 47

Guidance 19: After hearing the news of Frank Churchill's secret engagement to Jane Fairfax, Emma feels terrible. She encouraged her friend to aspire to this young man, and now he is attached to someone else. Once again her advice has hurt her friend. Acting out of a desire to improve her friend socially, but not in character, Emma's suggestions have all had bad results.

Emma is even more distressed when she learns it is Mr. Knightley, not Frank Churchill, whom Harriet loves. And Miss Smith claims that were it not for Miss Woodhouse's encouragement, she never would have thought of the match. Emma's counsel has backfired onto herself, because it is not until Harriet declares her love for him that Emma realizes she loves Mr. Knightley too. Emma makes a few comments about the class differences, but mostly keeps quiet after Harriet tells her the news.

Chapter 48

Guidance 20: Only after Harriet's declaration of love for Mr. Knightley does Emma realize that her own heart belongs to him as well. She thinks back on all the advice Mr. Knightley has given her over the years, and she regrets not having listened to him. He was usually much more on target than she, and Emma fears she will soon lose his attention. A married Mr. Knightley will not care about the headstrong Miss Woodhouse in the neighboring house.

Chapter 53

Guidance 21: When Emma and Mr. Knightley are discussing spoiled children, Emma's name obviously comes up. She credits Mr. Knightley with helping lead her to the right path. His influence helped to humble her, making her a better person. But Mr. Knightley thinks she could have changed without him. His influence might even have harmed her, but he is glad it did not. Unlike Emma, he does not exalt his advice, or give himself much power over the lives and destinies of others. Perhaps this is why his advice usually gave the best results.

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