Emma Study Guide


Emma by Jane Austen

Emma is Jane Austen's classic 1815 novel of misguided matchmaking, following socialite Emma Woodhouse as she attempts to find her friend Harriet the perfect husband. Emma's scheming soon causes misunderstandings not only involving Harriet, but also Mr. Elton, the vicar, Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, Highbury peers of Emma's, and Mr. Knightley, the Woodhouse's family friend. Though Emma's attempts to manipulate love prove futile and her pride in her matchmaking abilities unfounded, everyone gets their own happy ending as Austen explores themes of social status, objectivity, and misunderstanding.

Emma (1816) is a comic novel by Jane Austen, generally regarded as the most perfectly constructed of all her works, concerning the perils of misconstrued romance.


Volume I

  • Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
    • Chapter 1: The opening sentence.
  • Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?
    • Chapter 5: Mrs. Weston to Mr. Knightley, on Emma.
  • Better be without sense, than misapply it as you do.
    • Chapter 8: Mr. Knightley to Emma
  • It is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for anybody who asks her.
    • Chapter 8: Emma to Mr. Knightley.
  • Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.
    • Chapter 8: Mr. Knightley to Mrs. Weston.
  • One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
    • Chapter 9: Emma to Mr. Woodhouse.
  • A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.
    • Chapter 10: Emma to Harriet Smith.
  • There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves.
    • Chapter 11: Emma, thinking of Mr. Elton and Harriet Smith.
  • The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be.
    • Chapter 12: Mr. Woodhouse to Isabella.
  • There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.
    • Chapter 13: Emma, thinking of Harriet.
  • It was a delightful visit—perfect, in being much too short.
    • Chapter 13: On visit of the John Knightley family to Hartfield.
  • There are secrets in all families.
    • Chapter 14: Mr. Weston.
  • Respect for right conduct is felt by every body.
    • Chapter 18: Mr. Knightley to Emma.
  • Nobody who has not been in the interior of a family can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.
    • Chapter 18: Emma to Mr. Knightley.

Volume 2

  • It is such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do.
    • Chapter 3: Miss Bates.
  • Harriet was one of those, who, having once begun, would be always in love.
    • Chapter 4
  • Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.
    • Chapter 4: On the interest of the Highbury community in Augusta Hawkins (Mrs. Elton).
  • What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.
    • Chapter 5: Mr. Weston to Frank Churchill.
  • There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person.
    • Chapter 6: Frank Churchill to Emma.
  • I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly.—It depends upon the character of those who handle it. Mr. Knightley, he is not a trifling, silly young man. If he were, he would have done this differently. He would either have gloried in the achievement, or been ashamed of it. There would have been either the ostentation of a coxcomb, or the evasions of a mind too weak to defend its own vanities.—No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling or silly.
    • Chapter 8: Emma to Mr. Knightley.
  • Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.
    • Chapter 8: Mr. Knightley to Emma.
  • A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer.
    • Chapter 9: Description of Emma observing the daily activities in Highbury.
  • The ladies here probably exchanged looks which meant, "Men never know when things are dirty or not;" and the gentlemen perhaps thought each to himself, "Women will have their little nonsense and needless cares."
    • Chapter 11: Contrasting reactions to the rooms at the Crown Inn as the site for the Westons' ball.
  • I am very sorry to be right in this instance. I would much rather have been merry than wise.
    • Chapter 12: Emma to Frank Churchill.
  • Jane Fairfax is a very charming young woman - but not even Jane Fairfax is perfect. She has a fault. She has not the open temper which a man would wish for in a wife.
    • Chapter 15: Mr. Knightley to Emma and Mrs. Weston.
  • Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.
    • Chapter 16: Mr. John Knightly to Jane Fairfax.
  • Young ladies are delicate plants. They should take care of their health and their complexion.
    • Chapter 16: Mr. Woodhouse to Jane Fairfax.
  • If things are going untowardly one month, they are sure to mend the next.
    • Chapter 18: Mr. Weston.

Volume 3

  • Can you trust me with such flatterers?—Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?
    • Chapter 2: Emma to Mr. Knightley, who is leaving her to "her own reflections."
  • General benevolence, but not general friendship, made a man what he ought to be.
    • Chapter 2: Emma, thinking critically of Mr. Weston.
  • It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her–and before her niece, too–and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.–This is not pleasant to you, Emma–and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,–I will tell you truths while I can.
    • Chapter 3: Mr. Knightley chastising Emma for her treatment of Miss Bates
  • She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of his representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!
    • Chapter 3: Emma reflecting on how she treated Miss Bates
  • A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.
    • Chapter 13: Mr. Knightley to Emma.
  • 'I cannot make speeches, Emma:' he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—'If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.'
    • Chapter 13: Mr. Knightley to Emma.
  • Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.
    • Chapter 13: On Emma's response to Mr. Knightley's proposal.
  • What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does. She said enough to show there need not be despair– and to invite him to say more himself.
    • Chapter 13: Description of Emma's response to Mr. Knightley's proposal.
  • It is very difficult for the prosperous to be humble.
    • Chapter 14: Frank Churchill to Mrs. Weston, in a letter.
  • One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.
    • Chapter 15:: Mr. Knightley to Emma.

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