Summary and Analysis Volume 3: Chapter XVI



Harriet proves to be as desirous of avoiding a meeting as is Emma, and Emma has no trouble getting her invited and off to London for at least a fortnight. Wanting to wait until Mrs. Weston is delivered of her baby before telling Mr. Woodhouse of her engagement, Emma now has adequate time and takes the opportunity to call on Jane, who meets her on the stairs herself. She is very gratified by Jane's greeting, then hears Augusta Elton within. Inside, the latter meets Emma with unusual graciousness because she thinks she alone is in on the secret of Jane's engagement and proves her attitude by her constant tasteless asides and "secret" teasings of Jane. Mr. Elton is expected to pick up his wife after (Augusta asserts) a meeting with Mr. Knightley at the Crown, a meeting that Emma says is to be tomorrow. Emma is proved right when Mr. Elton arrives hot and disconcerted after a long walk to Donwell Abbey, where he was unable to find George in spite of having sent a letter. Emma can smile because she guesses that George is waiting for her at Hartfield. When she leaves, Jane attends her all the way downstairs, where they both apologize and forgive each other for their misunderstandings. Emma is happy to learn that Jane and Frank's living with Mr. Churchill at Enscombe is settled, and she concludes thus: "Oh! if you knew how much I love every thing that is decided and open!"


In case there was any doubt, this chapter proves the basically good character and personality of Jane. Augusta gets an incidental and minor degree of comeuppance, perhaps all that her small character merits: littleness deserves littleness. Emma, who can now feel tolerant of even an Augusta, has before her, in the person of Jane, a lovely and radiant example of openness, a quality that she can appreciate more than ever because of her wish to be absolutely open and frank with George.