Austen's portrayal of Mrs Elton and Emma in two parts of the novel

Categories: Novel

The two chapters that I am going to be looking at are chapter forty two and forty three. Before these chapters, it is established that Emma is "handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition...... with very little to distress or vex her". Furthermore we learn that Emma is in the class of the gentry and lives in Hartfield which intern due to society beliefs at the time encourage her to believe that her status makes her right all the time.

We also find out that Emma follows her heart rather then her head, using her fancy rather then her intellect.

This is shown when she tries to match make Harriet and Mr Elton which fails due to Mr Elton actually being interested in her. Furthermore Emma possesses "the power of having rather to much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself". This quote from third person narration which is one of the key devices from the novel foreshadows that from this point on things will likely not go her way.

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In chapter forty two an outing to Box Hill is planned, but it is postponed because of a lame horse. Due to this Mr. Knightley suggests that the party come to his estate instead. Mrs Elton tries to take over this idea which intern leads to Mr Knightley having to be very firm to prevent her from planning all the details. Meanwhile, the lame horse heals, and it is decided that the Box Hill party will follow the one at Donwell Abbey, Mr Knightley's estate.

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At Donwell Abbey, Emma enjoys examining Knightley's house and grounds and we see clearly that she admires Mr Knightley's land "it was just what it ought to be, and looked what it was".

This also shows that Jane Austen approves of him as he is doing what she feels the gentry has to do (which is helping their staff and looking after their land) to stop a revolution like the French's occurring. We also learn about Mrs Elton persisting that Jane Fairfax should take the job she has found for her to be governess which causes Jane Fairfax to leave the party. The chapter also reveals a clear improvement of Emma's education as she is more reserved and does not speak her mind when learning that the Elton's will be accompanying her and Mr Weston to Box Hill.

In comparison we are shown just how superficial Mrs Elton character is as she is constantly gossiping, "parading" and as mentioned before trying to take over Mr Knightley's party even though he has told her many times he doesn't need her help "I will invite your guests. No he calmly replied". Chapter forty three takes place at Box Hill, this party shows a clear contrast to the Donwell Abbey party as is very superficial due to the presence of Frank Churchill who has a very negative effect on Emma's character.

This is shown through the fake flirtation they show towards each other because neither of them are attracted to one another. In this party Mr. and Mrs Elton keep to themselves while Mr. Knightley, Miss Bates, and Jane Fairfax form a second party, Emma stays with Harriet and Frank Churchill. This party unlike the Donwell Abbey party is not a success as everyone sits about bored until Frank says that "Emma demands to know what they are thinking of". Frank then demands a piece of cleverness from each member of the party, asking them to produce either "one thing very clever . . . r two things moderately clever; or three things very dull indeed". Mrs Bates comments on this and then is insulted by Emma. This insult causes Emma to later be taught another lesson by Mr Knightley. Furthermore due to the flirtation between Emma and Frank Churchill Mr Knightley leaves for London at the end of this chapter.

This chapter also shows some of Mrs Elton's better qualities because even she sees how absurd it is for the party to all be talking about what they think of Emma and decides to leave because she thinks "these kind of things are very well at Christmas...... ut quite out of place, when one is exploring the country" Mrs Elton is presented in chapter forty two using several literary devices such as dialogue, third person narration and satire. The quote "cabbage-beds would have been enough to tempt the lady, who only wanted to be going somewhere" shows how Jane Austen uses humour through the use of the third person narration to display how she does not approve of her character. Furthermore it also shows that Mrs Elton is desperate to be out of her house which shows that she wants to be somewhere she can gossip and be the centre of the attention.

Mrs Elton's character is also shown to be vulgar and desperate during the dialogue between her and Mr Knightley. During this dialogue Mrs Elton is constantly trying to take over the party from Mr Knightley. "It is my party. I will bring my friends with me". This quote said by Mrs Elton like many others is rejected by Mr Knightley who has to be very "firm" to make Mrs Elton see that it is not her party. Although Mrs Elton persists to help Mr Knightley which could be interpreted as a positive of her character it is more likely she is striving for attention.

Also at the end of this dialogue Mrs Elton still believes that Mr Knightley has created the party for her "I am fully sensible of your attention to me in the whole of this scheme. You have hit upon the very thing to please me". Which indicates her lack of education and that she is desperate to be accepted by the gentry. Another example of her lack of education is when Jane Fairfax will not accept her offer to be her friend's governess "she positively refused to take her negative".

This discussion like the one with Mr Knightly, which although could be seen as a friend trying to help a friend is more likely to be Mrs Elton just wanting to get her way. One more example of dialogue used by Mrs Elton is when she says "I wish we had a donkey". This quote is said after Mr Knightley rejects her help for the last time and can be seen as an example of when Mrs Elton has nothing to say, she just says nonsense. Furthermore Mrs Elton's use of the word "cara sposa" shows off how she wants to display that her intelligence is better then the people around her.

Furthermore the repetition of the word "parade" shows how although Mrs Elton says this party will "be no form or parade" her being their will cause it to be. Mrs Elton is presented in chapter forty three using the same literary devices as the previous chapter. The quote from third person narration "Mrs Elton swelled at the idea of Miss Woodhouse's presiding" shows that she, Mrs Elton is not happy with Emma getting all the attention which is something she strives for constantly.

However although Mrs Elton does do this she is shown in a positive light in this chapter when she says that she will not take part in Frank's game of complimenting Emma as she sees it as something people will do around "the fire" but not when "one is exploring about the countryside". Although this quote could be interpreted as Mrs Elton just not wanting to compliment Emma, the fact that she leaves the surroundings of the party where she could talk about all of her gossip shows that she may genuinely think it is a waste of time.

Emma is presented in chapter forty two using several literary devices such as dialogue, third person narration and satire. At the beginning of this chapter Emma rarely says anything and it is only through third person narration that we learn that Emma has not spoken her mind when she hears that the Elton's will be coming with her and Mr Weston to Box Hill "Emma denied none of it aloud, and agreed to one of it in private. " This quote shows how Emma's education has progressed since the start of the book because she is using her intellect rather then fancy before she speaks. It also how she is becoming the lady Mr Knightley knows she can be.

Furthermore throughout the conversation between Mrs Elton and Mr Knightley Emma does not try and intervene but rather lets Mr Knightley deal with the situation. This is something Emma would have likely not done during the start of the book. In this chapter we also see how Emma has a deep respect for Mr Knightley as he looks after his land and staff. "Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such gentility, untainted in blood and understanding". This quote from third person narration reveals that Jane Austen approves of Mr Knightley and that Emma does as well.

Furthermore the quote "it was just what it ought to be, and looked what it was" makes it further apparent that Emma respects him. The quote "How Jane could bear it all, was astonishing to Emma" (which is an indirect thought of Emma's) shows that Emma is feeling compassion towards Jane Fairfax when she overhears Mrs Elton trying to persuade her to take the governesses job. This causes Jane Fairfax to leave the party, due to this we are shown Emma's further compassion towards Jane Fairfax as she not only tells her that she will tell the others she has left but also offers her carriage to her "Let me order the carriage".

This shows another improvement in Emma's character as she has learnt that she should have befriended Jane Fairfax instead of leaving her with Mrs Elton. Chapter forty three on the other hand presents Emma in a very negative light and it could be suggested that this is because of the presence of Frank Churchill. Which intern suggests that Mr Knightley who was with her throughout the previous chapter has a good effect on Emma. In this chapter Emma and Frank play up to societies opinions and flirt with each other even though they both are not interested in one another.

The superficial relationship between Emma and Frank is made clear when Emma actually admits they are "talking nonsense". The quote "Emma could not resist" shows that Emma has returned to her old ways and has began to follow her fancy rather then her head again. Due to this following of her fancy she insults Mrs Bates "Ah! ma'am, but there may be a difficulty. Pardon me, but you will be limited as to number only three at once. " This insult causes Mr Knightley to teach her, her final lesson "Were she a women of fortune, I would leave every harmless absurdity to take its chance...... ut, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case". Due to this lesson we are shown that Emma's education is nearly complete and that Emma is finally learning to put her intellect before her fancy. In conclusion both chapters portray Mrs Elton and Emma in contrast.

Chapter forty two shows Emma in a good light while Mrs Elton is seen "parading" and gossiping throughout. While in chapter forty three Emma is seen to be the one who acts improperly as she insults Mrs Bates and shows her superficial relationship with Frank Churchill. Mrs Elton on the other hand sees how pointless it is to play Franks game and does not participate.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Austen's portrayal of Mrs Elton and Emma in two parts of the novel. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Austen's portrayal of Mrs Elton and Emma in two parts of the novel essay
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