Emma by Jane Austen
Emma Woodhouse believes she possesses a natural gift for matchmaking. Although unmarried, she reigns as mistress of Hartfield, her father’s estate. Emma’s confidence leads her to interfere in the personal affairs of her social circle. She encourages a relationship between her governess and Mr. Weston, and soon after, the couple marries.
Left without a female companion, Emma encounters Harriet Smith. Harriet’s parentage is unknown, indicating that she is probably an illegitimate child. Emma takes Harriet under her wing, seeking to elevate her social standing. Emma encourages Harriet to decline a marriage proposal from Robert Martin, a farmer whom Emma finds unsuitable, in favour of pursuing the vicar, Mr. Elton.
Mr. Knightley, Emma’s lifelong friend, disapproves of Emma’s high-handed behaviour and chastises her for it. Emma soon regrets her actions when Mr. Elton, much to her astonishment, proposes to herself. Harriet is crushed, and Emma realizes how misguided she has been. However, Emma soon resumes her matchmaking when she presumes that Harriet has now fallen in love with Frank Churchill, Mr. Weston’s son, after he had saved her from a group of gypsies.
Indeed, Harriet speaks of her gratitude towards a gentleman who recently came to her aid. Emma is shocked to later discover that the gentleman in question is actually Mr. Knightley.
Emma, crestfallen, realizes that she has been in love with Mr. Knightley for some time. Believing Emma to be in love with Frank Churchill, Mr. Knightley comes to Hartfield to comfort her. Emma, however, believes that Mr. Knightley has come to reveal his intentions of marrying Harriet.In a classic Austen twist, Mr. Knightley tells Emma that he is in fact in love with her. The joyful ending sees Mr. Knightley married to Emma, and Robert Martin to Harriet Smith.
Published in 1816, Jane Austen’s fourth novel is a sparkling comedy of manners, full of endearing characters, and with an intricate but ultimately satisfying plot.
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