Emma Summary and Analysis of Chapters 29-35

Chapter Twenty-nine: Frank Churchill, who so enjoyed dancing at the Cole's party, plans another one for Highbury. Although initially planned for Randalls, the lack of acceptable space for dancing leads him to plan it instead for the Crown Inn.

Analysis: This chapter demonstrates the planning that goes into the various social events that occur throughout Austen's novels. Everyone's tastes and opinions must be considered, even—to a lesser degree—Miss Bates. There are deep considerations about who to invite and why, how comfortable each person will be, whether or not a location is suitable to all. This is what occupies most of the time of the elites in Highbury such as Emma and the Westons.

Frank Churchill differs from the other men of Highbury, as this chapter makes clear. He has no profession, like Mr. Elton, and he does not behave with the authority or reserve that Mr. Knightley or Mr. Weston show. His major concern is pleasure, the very reason why he organizes a dance for Highbury. Austen shows this through the contrast between what Emma focuses on while planning the party and what Frank Churchill considers. While Emma wants to please everybody, Frank, who obsesses over whether or not there will be enough room to dance, thinks more about ensuring that he enjoys himself at the ball.

Chapter Thirty: A letter arrives from Mr. Churchill to urge his nephew's instant return due to Mrs. Churchill’s sudden illness. This ruins the preparations for the ball, and they must postpone the event. When Frank leaves, Emma is certain that he almost tells her that he loved her. She convinces herself that she is in love.

Analysis: Mrs. Churchill exhibits a great influence on her nephew, essentially ordering him home when she feels unwell. There is little sense that Mrs. Churchill’s actions are informed by actual health concerns. She becomes most ill and most in need of her family's company when she wishes to exert control on Frank Churchill.

There is a moment before he leaves in which Frank Churchill nearly breaks down his consistent air of insincerity. He speaks of his warm regard for Hartfield and shows a genuine wish to reveal some honest or true emotion. It is this moment in which Emma believes that Frank Churchill may be in love with her. However, whether or not Frank is interested in Emma or someone else entirely is still unclear. When Frank is prepared to admit to something, it is soon after he mentions a visit he made to see Miss Bates, in which he implies that he spoke to Jane Fairfax.

This is perhaps the best evidence that Frank Churchill does not intend to manipulate Emma into believing that he loves her, but that his attention to her stems instead from his naturally social demeanor. There is a sincerity of emotion here that is never present in Mr. Elton. Despite Frank Churchill's faults, in this matter, his purpose is not to deceive.

Nevertheless, Emma finds herself believing that Frank might love her and convinces herself that she might be in love with him. Emma, who has previously thought of romance only in practical terms, finds herself considering actual love. However, she has no concrete idea what love actually entails. She lists as examples of her love listlessness, weariness, and stupidity, indicating a passing fancy or crush and not substantial emotion. Furthermore, this doubt is inconsistent with Emma's normal behavior. She usually holds firm to her emotions to the point of stubbornness ­ as she did with Harriet Smith ­ and the fact that she is unsure whether or not she is in love is a good indication that she is not.

Chapter Thirty-one: Emma has no doubt that she is in love but wonders how much she can actually love Frank Churchill if she is no less happy during his absence. She realizes that she is not in love to her vow never to marry or quit her father. Emma starts to wonder if Frank might instead be a good match for Harriet. Emma scolds Harriet for worrying about Mr. Elton, claiming that it is a constant reminder of her mistake. She asks Harriet to speak less of Mr. Elton for her own sake, and Harriet apologies for being ungrateful.

Analysis: After Emma has opened herself to the idea of falling in love with Frank Churchill (and not simply marrying him as a pragmatic move), she realizes that she does not truly love him. Her realization shows a practical reasoning and introspection previously uncharacteristic of Emma. Still, although she does not love Frank Churchill, she still enjoys his attention. It bolsters her own very high self-regard to know that a man such as Frank is so attentive to her.

However, Emma continues to make the same errors that caused her so much aggravation earlier in the book. She has not learned the lesson of Mr. Elton and fancies the idea of making a match between Frank Churchill and Harriet. She knows the dangers of such thinking and actions but is inordinately tempted.

What Emma does realize with regard to Harriet Smith is how unfortunately obsessive she can be with regards to Mr. Elton. This vexes Emma for a number of reasons. It is a reminder of Emma's mistake in judgment, and, in talking about Mr. Elton, Harriet does not serve her primary purpose to Emma. Harriet is useful by flattering Emma, and, in this situation, she annoys. The situation is only remedied when Harriet apologizes and resumes her role as the obedient, dutiful friend.

Chapter Thirty-two: Emma first sees the new Mrs. Elton at church, but she cannot be in the vicinity of the Eltons without recollecting Mr. Elton’s bad behavior and Emma’s meddling. Emma finds that Mrs. Elton has no elegance and maintains that Harriet would have been a better wife for Mr. Elton because of her higher social connections. When Emma meets with Mrs. Elton, she compares Hartfield to Maple Grove, where her brother resides, and is quite presumptuous, calling Mrs. Weston surprisingly ladylike considering her former occupation. She even calls Mr. Knightley the much less formal "Knightley."

Analysis: In Augusta Hawkins, Mr. Elton has found a perfect match: a woman as vapid and socially conscious as he is. The new Mrs. Elton drops names, constantly offers her own superiority, and treats the members of Highbury society with much less respect than normally accorded. The woman is self-important, ignorant, and ill-bred, with none of the talents that could redeem her as they did Jane Fairfax. As bad as the new Mrs. Elton's manners are, they are made worse by her position in society. Her snobbery and comparisons of Hartfield to Maple Grove are made worse by the fact that her connections in Maple Grove are wealthy but lower class. This perpetuates the theme that social class determines proper manners; Mrs. Elton does not know her proper rank in society.

Calling Mr. Knightley by his last name is a particular affront to propriety, for it presumes equality and intimacy between the two, neither of which is the case. Even Emma and her father speak of their close friend as Mr. Knightley, despite their long acquaintance and equal social status. Assuming that the character names reflect Emma's point of view, there are only a few times when a less formal name is used: between close friends of the same age, between siblings or by an adult to a child, or with regard to an unmarried woman.

Chapter Thirty-three: Mrs. Elton, offended by the little encouragement given by Emma, become cold and distant to her. Her manners, and those of Mr. Elton, also become more unpleasant toward Harriet. Mrs. Elton does, however, take a great fancy to Jane Fairfax, a fact which causes Emma to pity Jane for the first time. Jane refuses an invitation to join the Campbells, and Emma suspects that she has some ulterior motive. Mrs. Weston predicts that Mr. Knightley has spent so much time occupied with the idea of not being in love with Jane Fairfax that he will probably end in marrying her.

Analysis: Emma is quite decisive about whom she likes and dislikes, and once she decides that she dislikes Mrs. Elton, there is little chance that she will substantially alter this opinion. In only one respect does her low opinion of Mrs. Elton change: it becomes worse. Once again status plays a consideration. Emma dislikes Mrs. Elton because she presumes herself to be higher in society than she actually is, believing that her connections at Maple Grove make her quite respectable. Yet part of this dislike stems from Mrs. Elton's apparent mutual dislike of Emma.

While Emma is invariably polite to Mrs. Elton, as she is to nearly all, the bitterness between the two women indicates that manners can only obscure so much. Despite Emma's outward propriety, Mrs. Elton can sense that Emma dislikes her and the victim of her animosity is none other than poor Harriet Smith. Although Mrs. Elton cannot openly scorn Emma, she can openly treat the lowly Harriet Smith with contempt.

However, the polite feud between Emma and Mrs. Elton does serve to show that Emma herself has harmed others socially. It is Mr. Knightley who reminds Emma that Jane Fairfax has become friends with Mrs. Elton primarily because only Mrs. Elton pays attention to Jane. This implies that Jane Fairfax is somewhat of an outcast in society, likely because Emma has made this the case. Just as Mrs. Elton certainly sensed Emma's dislike of her, others in Highbury society likely realize that Emma dislikes Jane Fairfax and follow her lead. Jane Fairfax is a victim because of Emma's envy.

Chapter Thirty-four: Emma decides to have a party for the Eltons at Hartfield to hide her contempt for the couple. Besides the Eltons, Emma invites Mr. Knightley, the Westons, and Jane Fairfax. During the party, they discuss Jane's trip to the post office and her handwriting. Mr. Knightley makes another disparaging comment about Frank Churchill, claiming his writing is like a woman's, while Emma wonders what letters Jane might receive. Are they sent by Mr. Dixon, or the Campbells, or another person altogether?

Analysis: Although it is obvious to all that Emma dislikes Mrs. Elton, she is forced to invite the Eltons to dinner at Hartfield for reasons of propriety. There may be subtle signs and indications of animosity between the two women, but Emma cannot allow such a public statement of dislike. Propriety takes precedence over true feelings and emotions.

In light of Mr. Knightley's earlier comment about how others have snubbed Jane Fairfax, Emma attempts to remedy the situation. Her invitation to Jane, unlike inviting Mrs. Elton, is genuine and sincere. She invites Jane Fairfax as a way to right her earlier wrongs, but she is also interested in unraveling the mystery of Jane and Mr. Dixon. She still suspects that Jane is somehow involved with Mr. Dixon, even though she has no real evidence. All of the real evidence points to Frank Churchill instead. (This chapter also reinforces Mr. Knightley's dislike of Frank Churchill, which goes beyond the objections that he states). This suggests a different motive for Emma's interest in Jane Fairfax. It is now less jealousy and more an idle curiosity. Jane is hiding some important information. What that entails will soon be more clear to Emma.

Chapter Thirty-five: During the later part of the party, Jane mentions that she must become a governess, which she compares to the slave trade. Mr. Weston arrives at the party after a day of business in London and gives Mrs. Weston a letter from Frank Churchill, who is returning to Highbury since his aunt's health improved.

Analysis: This chapter reveals the likely fate of Jane Fairfax ­ since she is not from a wealthy family, although raised by one, she must go into a profession as a governess. This is a sharp step down the social ladder. As raised by the Campbells, she was part of the elite and lived as Emma does now. While Emma is an heiress who will be at the center of society even if she remains single, Jane Fairfax, despite her equal talents, must depend on a good marriage (the solution Mrs. Weston found to increase her status in society) or else she will be forced into a demeaning life as a spinster, much like her aunt, Miss Bates. The comparison between the governess trade and the slave trade highlights this injustice.

The chapter also indicates that Frank Churchill will soon return to Highbury. His aunt's health was not the reason for his absence, as Mr. Weston indicates. It was rather her need to exert control over Frank and demand his loyalty. Now that she has flexed her authority over Frank, he is temporarily free to return to Highbury. This is an additional reminder that Frank Churchill is not able to act without considering his aunt's demands. This may explain whatever reluctance he has to admit his feelings or emotions with regards to Emma or anyone else.