Summary and Analysis
Volume 3: Chapter XVII
Mrs. Weston becomes the mother of a little girl, just what Emma had wished for her. George and Emma hardly ever mention Harriet, and Emma is grieved that she cannot be fully open with him about her pretty friend, who is now to remain with the John Knightleys until they all come down in August. Meanwhile Emma finds a time to tell her father of her engagement. Shocked, he tries to dissuade her from it, but she softens him a little by the time George, as planned, arrives to add his persuasive powers. Finally, after Isabella through letters and Mrs. Weston in person join the others to persuade him, Mr. Woodhouse begins to think "that some time or other — in another year or two, perhaps — it might not be so very bad if the marriage did take place."
When the news spreads over Highbury, everyone is surprised, but in general the match is very well approved by everybody except Augusta Elton, who pities "poor Knightley."
Working out further the denouement of her plot, Miss Austen makes good satire of Mr. Woodhouse, the man of gentle selfishness whose only real strength seems to lie in the regard that others have for him. The number of forces needed to persuade him is truly comic and represents the degree of regard for a harmless, whimsical old man who has long outgrown any usefulness. Community satire is registered in the town's reaction to the engagement and is pinpointed in Mr. Weston's inability to keep a secret.