Summary and Analysis
Volume 3: Chapter V
During the month of June it is learned that Jane will stay two more months with the Bateses, and George grows to dislike Frank even more. In fact, Frank is on many minds: "While so many were devoting him to Emma, and Emma herself making him over to Harriet, Mr. Knightley began to suspect him of some inclination to trifle with Jane Fairfax." George has seen certain looks pass between Frank and Jane, and one evening during a group meeting at Hartfield Frank mentions news of Mr. Perry which Mrs. Weston says she did not write him because she did not know it until this very moment. Frank says he must have dreamed it, but it turns out that Miss Bates has known it as a secret. The "dream," however, is dropped as the group goes indoors and begins a word game, which George carefully observes. He notes that Frank puts before Jane a puzzle that leads to the word blunder and that another which spells Dixon so displeases her that she turns to Miss Bates for them to go. George remains behind with the idea of "trying to preserve" Emma, but Emma states emphatically that there is nothing between Frank and Jane, that "I can answer for its being so on his" side. "She spoke with a confidence which staggered, with a satisfaction which silenced, Mr. Knightley," who soon afterward takes a hasty leave.
Both the mystery of Frank and Jane and the observant sensibility of George are intensified in this chapter. The chapter is devoted almost entirely to plot action, but a parallel ironic development is worth noting: Just as the verbal irony of generalization in the preceding chapter has misled Emma, here her emphatic generalization about Frank misleads George. In both instances it is Emma's wording that causes misunderstanding, the damaging vagueness resulting from the conflict between the urge to communicate and the need for polite restraint.