Summary and Analysis
Volume 3: Chapter IV
A few days later Harriet appears with a small parcel in her hand, declaring that she can now see nothing extraordinary in Mr. Elton and showing Emma that the parcel is marked with "Most precious treasures" on the top. Taking from it a piece of court plaster and the end of an old pencil which had belonged to Mr. Elton and which she has carefully saved, she throws them behind the fire for Emma to see. Not many days afterward Harriet says that she will never marry and then continues inaudibly but with the final words: "so superior to Mr. Elton!" From their talking in very general and vague terms, Emma concludes that her friend is in love with Frank and both cautions and encourages her, thinking that, though he is her superior, such an attachment is "no bad thing for her friend."
The action of this chapter speaks for itself, but one should note the curious mixture of pathos and bathos in the character of Harriet and note also the conflictive elements in Emma, who in one breath feels shame for her part in the Elton affair and in the next breath encourages her friend along the same line. Worthy of notice also is the verbal irony in the polite and misleading generalizations that wrongly confirm Emma's guess as to who Harriet's new object of attachment is.