"Handsome, clever and rich," Emma is a twenty-one year old daughter of a wealthy gentleman accustomed to "having her own way" and cursed with a "disposition to think a little too well of herself." Although a meddler who demonstrates a maddening self-confidence, Emma is generally well intentioned. The novel is essentially a story of how Emma matures from a clever young woman to a more modest and considerate woman, able to accept the idea of love.
Mr. George Knightley
A sensible man of thirty-seven, his brother had married Emma's elder sister, Isabella. Courteous, noble, sincere and intelligent, he is a paragon for behavior, yet not afraid to correct Emma for her mistakes. He marries Emma at the end of the novel.
A short, plump and fair girl of seventeen, she is of somewhat dubious origins. Emma is mostly responsible for bringing Harriet into Highbury society and constantly instructs and advises her, although not always to her benefit. Emma fills her with a pretension that is inappropriate for her status. In the end, she marries Mr. Martin, a farmer that Emma considers too coarse but is more appropriate in status for Harriet.
The son of Mr. Weston, he was brought up by his uncles, the Churchills, who could better support him at the time. Highbury society eagerly anticipates his visit to his newly married father, but he consistently delays. Frank Churchill is somewhat shallow, more interested in pursuing pleasure than any concrete pursuits, but he is also handsome and charming enough to attract Emma. He is secretly engaged to Jane Fairfax, but cannot reveal this because the aunt who raised him would strenuously object.
An orphan, the only child of Mrs. Bates' youngest daughter. Upon her mother's death, she was taken in by Colonel Campbell, who served with her father in the army. The same age is Emma, she is equally talented, charming and well-regarded, a fact that quite vexes Emma. She is secretly engaged to Frank Churchill.
Mr. Philip Elton
The vicar of the church in Highbury whom Emma chooses as a possible suitor for Harriet Smith. Mr. Elton ultimately reveals his romantic interest in Emma herself, but she rejects him. He marries the pretentious and rude Augusta Hawkins.
Emma's father is a wealthy man possessed of a large estate, Hartfield. Isolated in his estate, Mr. Woodhouse has few enjoyments. Although he dotes on Emma, he also indulges her more selfish tendencies and is largely unpleasant. His complaints and lack of activity make him appear a much older man than he actually is.
The daughter of Mrs. Bates, Miss Bates is neither young, married, handsome or rich. She lacks any distinguishing traits such as intellect or cleverness, yet is generally happy and treats others with great goodwill. Emma's cruel treatment of Miss Bates during the picnic at Box Hill is one of the turning points of the novel.
Mrs. Anne Weston (Miss Taylor)
Emma's governess who essentially raised Emma after her mother died. At the beginning of the book she marries Mr. Weston, a somewhat older gentleman. Mrs. Weston is an exemplar for Emma, modest and self-possessed, but still fails to see many of the faults in Emma that Mr. Knightley strives to correct throughout the novel.
Mrs. Elton (Miss Augusta Hawkins)
The daughter of a Bristol merchant who marries Mr. Elton. Her status in society rests only on the fact that her sister married very well, and her behavior when she arrives at Highbury is presumptuous, arrogant and rude. She refuses to treat others with the proper respect they are accorded, including even Mr. Knightley.
The older man that Miss Taylor marries, Mr. Weston had been married much earlier. From this marriage he had a son, Frank Churchill, whom he sent away to be raised by his late wife's relatives. He is from a respectable family that has been progressively moving up in society and amassed a modest fortune.
The widow of a former vicar of Highbury and the mother of Miss Bates. She is considered a harmless old lady and is largely ignored by Highbury society.
Mr. John Knightley
A tall, gentleman-like, clever man, respectable and reserved. He is married to Isabella, Emma's sister. Emma dislikes him somewhat for his severity and lack of patience.
A likable farmer who lives on Mr. Knightley's estate. Emma convinces Harriet to reject his first proposal of marriage because she believes that he is too coarse. He marries Harriet at the end of the novel.
Mrs. Isabella Knightley
Emma's elder sister, a pretty, elegant woman of amiable disposition. She is delicate and pales in comparison to the more sharp-witted Emma.
The mistress of a Boarding school where girls might be sent to receive a little education. One of her former students is Harriet Smith, who now assists her.
Emma Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Emma is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Austen uses the word "handsome" to describe all kinds of characters in her novels. I think handsome denotes a favored trait that transcends gender stereotypes. It is a comment on having good looks combined with a unique and clever personality.
Mr. Knightley is courteous, noble, sincere and intelligent, he is a paragon for behaviour, yet not afraid to correct Emma for her mistakes. Mr. Knightley is hard working and sincere, Frank Churchill is somewhat shallow, more interested in pursuing...