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Emma is the story of Miss Emma Woodhouse, a well-to-do young woman in a small English town. After her governess, Miss Taylor, marries and becomes Mrs. Weston, Emma is left with her hypochondriac, hyper-concerned father as her sole companion. She therefore takes the poor, unconnected, yet gentle Harriet under her wing. Emma's love of matchmaking leads her to meddle in Harriet's love life, and to set up some romantic misadventures of her own! A humorous, satirical work, where the plot is often secondary to the characters themselves. From the garrulous Miss Bates, to the querulous Mr Woodhouse, to the gallant Mr. Knightley and erratic Mr. Churchill, a fascinating and highly readable example of Jane Austen's prowess with the English language.--Submitted by Caitlin

Emma Woodhouse, the heroine of our novel, is bored. Who wouldn’t be? A constantly dozing father who is always cold and worried when he is awake, a sister who is in London and a gratifying governess who has just married Mr Weston, a house friend, and no other useful past-times. What else is to remain but chatting to Mr Knightly, also a house friend and bachelor proprietor of neighbouring Donwell Abbey, and looking for another fun amusement? Surely, it was she who made the match between Miss Tailor, her governess, and Mr Weston! Indeed, she foresaw the match already long before anyone did… Thus, a new useful employment has presented itself in front of her: matchmaking. She will now take on the charge of Miss Harriet Smith, a girl who is the illegitimate daughter of some gentleman or other and who lives in the school nearby, but who she fancies must be a baronet’s daughter, surely. Mr Knightley’s advice therefore of leaving her alone, is of no consequence. Harriet Smith must and shall be guided, away from Mr Martin, a gentleman farmer, onto honourable Mr Elton, the new curate. But are his attentions meant for Harriet at all? Are his interests with a beautiful face or rather something else beautiful, a purse perhaps? When he proves a disappointment, an old acquaintance turns up in the name of Jane Fairfax (surely disliked because of her reserve alone) and Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill appears, the carrier of a great fortune to be inherited from his maternal side in Yorkshire, everyone matches Emma with him, including soon she herself in thought, though she dismisses him and matches him with several people, apart from the right one. Surely the sub-plot around Frank Churchill was crystal-clear to Regency readers… All will come to a head at Box Hill where Emma cruelly offends Miss Bates, an old spinster of her acquaintance and aunt of Jane, something which earns her a severe reproof of Mr Knightley. But by what was that reproof motivated? As he moves off to his brother in London and she stays behind, all will be revealed, but is it not too late? Is he not attached? Has she matched everyone well or would some humble pie be in its place?--Submitted by kiki1982

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Recent Forum Posts on Emma

The black gentleman

In chapter 35, Mr Weston comes late to the party and tells everyone his son, Frank Churchill, is coming back soon: 'Well, he is coming, you see; good news, I think. Well, what do you say to it? - I always told you he would be here again soon, did I not? Anne, my dear, did not I always tell you so? In town next week, you see - at the latest, I dare say, for she is impatient as the black gentleman when anything is to be done; most likely they will be there tomorrow or Saturday." Who is the black gentleman? The devil I suppose. It is not a phrase I have come across before. I could google it, but where's the fun in that. Interestingly, there is a reference to slavery and its abolition in that chapter. Mrs Elton says one of her friends, Mr Suckling was a friend to the abolition. I notice Emma was published in 1816. Wikipedia says the UK introduced a law abolish the slave trade in 1806, although slavery was abolished throughout the empire until 1833.

Mr Woodhouse's age

I have been wondering a bit about Mr Woodhouse. He is a lovely, old man who dotes on his daughters, but he seems so old. He must be sixty-five if he's a day. He is possibly even getting a touch senile, all that hypochondria about colds and rich wedding cake and not wanting to go out at all, and then only if driven by his careful coach driver, James. I don't think the book says if he was married before he married Emma's mother, but presumably Emma's mother was much younger than her father. Emma is twenty. Emma's sister is about six years older than her iirc, so that would put Mr Woodhouse in his late 30s or early 40s when he married. SPOILER I have watched Clueless, so understand that Emma and Mr Knightly eventually get it together. I was surprised that, unlike Clueless, Mr Knightly is sixteen years older than Emma. I wonder if Emma's desire to marry Mr Knightly was influenced by the age of her mother and father.

Secret snog in Emma

Apparently, Jane Austen expert, Professor John Mullan, has found a snog in Emma: "The appearance of the little sitting-room as they entered was tranquillity itself; Mrs Bates, deprived of her usual employment, slumbering on one side of the fire, Frank Churchill at a table near her, most deedily occupied about her spectacles, and Jane Fairfax, standing with her back to them, intent on her pianoforte.” I did not really pick up on this, but I did think it was odd that Frank Churchill was still trying to fix Mrs Bates' spectacles when they came in. Miss Bates had just been telling Emma and everyone how Frank Churchill had offered to replace the screw into the spectacles earlier on. I imagine it would be a fiddly job, but it wouldn't take that long.


I was a bit puzzled to read that Emma was set in Highbury. Highbury is in north London. I used to hear it most in connection with Arsenal football club. It is quite a built up area. I wondered whether in Austen's time it was just a village miles away from London. However, I am sure it was not sixteen miles away. Then I watched a YouTube debate on who was greater: Austen or Emily Bronte; and the professor supporting Austen said that in Surrey Mr Elton is what evil looks like. Highbury is definitely not in Surrey. The county borders have not been redrawn that much. I wondered if there was a small village called Highbury in Surrey somewhere, but I have never heard of one. I gather the name is fictional in Emma. I suppose it would have to be as the community is so small. If Austen had situated Emma in a real village or small market town, there would be a temptation to identify characters in the books with real people.

Novel to compare & contrast to Emma

For an English assignment, I am comparing and contrasting Austen's 'Emma' to another novel. I need to look into things like characters, themes, settings, style, structure, plot, climax etc. If anyone could recommend a second novel for my assignment that they enjoyed and believe to be relevant to 'Emma', please post the title and author below. Thank you!

Evidence of class destabilisation in the novel 'Emma' by Jane Austen?

How is social mobility and the blurring of class distinctions represented? Where do we see the rise of the middle class? Interested to hear your thoughts :)

Emma - A disappointing read

Having recently read and adored Henry James' A Golden Bowl, I next turned to the easier Jane Austen. Knowing that Emma was one of Austen's best, I had expected more than a well constructed soap opera. Persuasion is a deeply moving and nuanced account of discerning Anne Elliot's drift into spinsterhood; Pride and Prejudice a glorious comedy with a cornucopia of irony. But in the more serious Emma a silly girl finds a sensible, if jealous, man while a silly man plays games while his fiancée fades away. Meanwhile gullible Harriet flounders, and Miss Bates and Mr Woodhouse are vaguely amusing (mere shadows of the magnificent characters that are Mr Bennet and Mr Wickham). Yet, by chance, all live happily ever after - ho hum. Should I read more Jane Austen?

For everyone who is excited about BBC's new Emma adaptation

There is coming a new adaptation of Emma on the BBC this Autumn... ... and... ... there is a preview! It was not watchable on the BBC if you were not in the UK, but it has been put on YouTube. Take a look:

elements of sense and sensibility in 'Emma'

hi everybody :)I hope you are fine. So, I've a research paper on Jane Austen's great novel Emma , and its about the elements of sense and sensibility in it. At first I thought it a hard thing but after I've read some comments I began somehow to understand what I am asked for:idea:. So I'm going to give you what I've understood, and I'm just asking you to correct and guide me or you also may pay my attention to something. So her is my opinion: the relationship between Jane and Frank Churchill: as we know they were engaged secretly and for months (they were guided by their sensebility) and therfore this love was going to fall apart until Frank told his grandfather and Mr Weston , in other words returning to society(sense) that this love was saved . Emma's attempts to choose a good husband for poor Harriet throughout the novel failed because she was following her emotions and feelings (her sensibility) , and at the end Harriet married Mr Martin according to the social class (sense). So, I'm waiting for your replies and thanks .:)

essay about the climax of emma

in school (11th grade) i have to write an essay on emma. the topic is a conversation that took place in the book that affected the lives of the characters. i have to write the gist of the conversation and how it affected the characters. im using the conversation at the end of the book between emma and mr knightly-when he says hes in love with her. i need some ideas on how to start off the introduction and a basic idea of what i should write in the 3 body paragraphs. thanx!

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