Summary and Analysis
Volume 2: Chapters VI-VII
The next morning Frank comes again with Mrs. Weston, and Emma decides to form her opinion of him by his behavior toward his stepmother. As the three of them tour Highbury by foot, he shows a liking for everything, and Emma is won over. As they pass the Crown Inn, where dances were once held, he seems rather bent on dancing. Recalling that he was to have visited the Bateses, Emma inquires and finds herself defending Jane Fairfax's complexion. After a visit to Ford's, she pursues the subject of Jane and learns
that Mr. Dixon had preferred Jane's music to that of Miss Campbell, a statement that adds fuel to Emma's imagination. Quite gallantly Frank agrees with Emma about Jane's being reserved. When they pass the vicarage, Mr. Elton's house, Frank avers that the house would be big enough for any man living there with the woman he loved. All in all, Emma feels pleased with the new acquaintance.
The next day, however, her good opinion is shaken when Frank goes all the way to London for only a haircut. She can overlook such an act, though, for he may be forming an attachment for her. Others too see it only as a youthful whim, but not George Knightley, who thinks Frank "just the trifling, silly fellow I took him for."
The nouveau riche Coles are planning a dinner party, and though Emma some time past decided never to accept an invitation of theirs, she is irked that she and her father have not been invited now, since all their closest friends have been. While the Westons are visiting at Hartfield, that very invitation comes with a just explanation for its delay. Since she really wants to attend, Emma lets herself be persuaded, though her father declines so much activity. Mr. Woodhouse is finally coaxed into allowing Emma to stay late at the party, and everything is thus settled.
Emma is letting herself be "taken in" by Frank in spite of the fact that she sees he is determined to please everyone. She enjoys toying with the possibility that he is growing fond of her, and she lets this enjoyment blind her first into overlooking some negative manifestations of his character and second into confiding in him too quickly with some of her attitude toward Jane. Only later will the reader know it, but, somewhat like Harriet, Emma is having her feelings misled. One thing about Emma, though, remains constant: her approval of a static social hierarchy (Harriet's unknown situation being a notable exception), indicated in her attitude toward the Coles. When this belief comes in conflict with her natural bent for social entertainment, however, she lets herself be persuaded because others have accepted the Coles, because the invitation is in good taste and properly solicits her as an "honor," and because she can attend out of a partial sense of noblesse oblige. The satire in her "letting herself be persuaded" should be obvious.