Summary and Analysis
Volume 2: Chapters XI-XII
One evening at Randalls, Frank and Emma become determined to set up an evening for a real dance. Mr. Woodhouse is naturally against such a scheme for reasons of health, but the Westons are quite for it as they measure rooms to decide their suitability and the number of couples wanted. Late the next morning Frank arrives at Hartfield to announce that the dance will be held at the Crown Inn. When Mr. Woodhouse argues against the place, Frank adroitly answers his objections and takes Emma off to the Crown, which the Westons are inspecting. "They can do nothing satisfactorily without you," he tells Emma. After they have really settled the questions about using the place, Frank suggests that they need "a large council," which should include Miss Bates. This leads to his going for both the aunt and the niece. Since Frank has written the Churchills for permission to extend his visit a few days, everything for the dance seems to be in order, especially for the Westons, who note that Frank has "secured" Emma for the first two dances.
Word comes that Frank may stay longer, and Emma is now certain of her ball except for "Mr. Knightley's provoking indifference about it," an indifference much in contrast to Jane's animated hopes for the social event.
Two days later everything is overthrown when a letter comes stating that Mrs. Churchill is ill and that Frank must return home immediately. Frank comes by Hartfield to say goodbye and Emma learns that he has already done the same at the Bates household. He seems about to declare himself on something when he pauses in mid-sentence as if to read her thoughts. Afraid of what he might be about to say, Emma calmly continues about the rightness of his visit to the Bateses. There is silence, during which he sighs. Once again he breaks off in the middle of a sentence, and Emma thinks that he is more in love with her than she supposed. But at that moment Mr. Weston enters and Frank, saying that he will look forward to hearing from them in Highbury, leaves with his father.
For Emma it is a sad change, with no more meetings with Frank and now with no immediate probability of a ball. Quite rationally she begins to think "that she must be a little in love with him, in spite of every previous determination against it." George, who she thinks will be glad there is to be no ball, on the contrary shows "no triumphant happiness"; however, Jane Fairfax's composure about the situation is "odious," in spite of her being unwell and suffering from headaches.
Emma is deceiving herself more and more about Frank. He is a charming companion, but in addition she chooses to interpret his words and actions in only one way: as they might apply to herself. This is part of the ironic reversal in which her attitude, for a change, is being conditioned by others, not the least of whom is Frank himself. The reversal is possible, though, because of the continuity of Emma's vanity. In the moments before parting, she assumes that he is about to declare something in reference to her. Later the reader learns that he was about to say something quite different, that he would have been giving her credit for insight that she did not have. The irony is delayed but nonetheless is there for the reader who looks back at the politely clever ways in which Frank manages to come in contact with Jane or finds excuses for bringing her upon a scene.
Among the instances of satire here, the reader might notice the continued presentation of Mr. Woodhouse's character, the undue concern about getting the opinions of others in reference to using the Crown Inn for the ball, and the way in which the wish becomes father to acceptance as the group inspects the faults of the Crown. At the end of this section is brief but effective contrast between Frank and George and between Emma and Jane.