Summary and Analysis
Harriet's visit to the Martins goes as Emma has hoped, for she picks up Harriet just as the acquaintance is about to become intimate again. On the way home they meet Mr. and Mrs. Weston, who have news that Frank Churchill will arrive the next day to stay an entire fortnight. Mr. Weston promises to bring him soon to Hartfield, and Mrs. Weston asks to be remembered at four the next afternoon when Frank is to arrive. The next morning Emma remembers at every opportunity and then is surprised when at noon she comes downstairs to find Mr. Weston and his son with her father. Frank appears to live up to his reputation, being good looking and lively and having "a well-bred ease of manner." Sure that he knows how to make himself agreeable, she wonders if he guesses that the Westons hope something will develop between her and him. He is all good breeding, even as his father leaves on business and he himself retires to visit the Bateses and Jane, the last with whom he has "the honour of being acquainted."
In addition to introducing Frank Churchill, who is to be a major character in the novel in spite of his actual coming on the scene so late, the present chapter offers a contrast between the natural attraction of Harriet toward Robert Martin (whose presence on the short visit is felt more because he is not physically there) and the comparatively artificial attraction of Emma toward Frank — artificial because it is based, not upon any real association, but upon the unstated yet prescriptive hopes of the beloved Westons and upon the kind of predisposition that can be kindled by an expectant community in general. Both of these factors have worked successfully upon Emma's imagination, while it has been Robert as a reality that has worked upon Harriet.
As for Frank, to Emma at least he proves to be the all-pleasing young man she formerly pictured to George Knightley. It is worth remembering that, when she thus described him, she was still partly following an argumentative position opposite to her real opinion. One cannot be certain whether this was meant to be merely argumentative or laudatory; but in any event, having now met and talked with Frank, she is indeed "very well pleased with this beginning of the acquaintance." It is highly ironical that, as simpleminded Harriet's attention was directed toward Mr. Elton by Emma, strong-willed Emma's attention has been directed toward Frank at least to a great extent by others than herself.