Analysis Pages

Plot in Emma

Plot Examples in Emma:

Volume I - Chapter I

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"secure of a comfortable provision..."   (Volume I - Chapter I)

By "secure of a comfortable provision," Mr. Knightley suggests that she will always have her long-term financial needs (including food, clothes, and home) met.

"natural and domestic..."   (Volume I - Chapter I)

The phrase "natural and domestic" means both those Emma knew from birth and those she met later in life.

"a black morning's work..."   (Volume I - Chapter I)

The phrase "black morning's work" indicates that the the wedding took place this morning, and it was a depressing time for Emma.

"governess..."   (Volume I - Chapter I)

The word "governess" refers to a female teacher hired to tutor a child. In this case, Miss Taylor serves as Emma's governess, educating her and teaching her about manners and conduct.

"opening..."   (Volume I - Chapter II)

Captain Weston had an opportunity to get started in business because of his brothers' business connections.

"must be doing her harm..."   (Volume I - Chapter III)

This is a great illustration of the rigid English class structure of the 19th century: Emma is worried that the Martins, who are not of Emma's or, by extension, Miss Smith's class, are not good enough for Miss Smith and may be bringing her down from her natural social standing even though they are "good people."  Being good in this society was just not good enough.


"Hartfield,..."   (Volume I - Chapter III)

Hartfield is a fictitious place just south of London in the county of Surrey. Austen uses a mix of real and fictitious place names to create realism—usually, towns and villages are real, and country houses have fictitious names.


"and actually shaken hands with her at last..."   (Volume I - Chapter III)

In his edition of Austen's works (Oxford University Press), R. W. Chapman noted that, at this point in the 19th century, shaking hands was a "mark of intimacy or affability." Clearly, Emma is a bit surprised and flattered by Miss Woodhouse's gesture.


"prosings..."   (Volume I - Chapter III)

The word "prosing" means everyday language used in speaking or writing. In this case, the women prattle on about unimportant or insignificant (and therefore tedious or boring) things.

"Were not you struck..."   (Volume I - Chapter IV)

In other words, the phrase "Were not you struck?" asks, "Did you not notice Mr. Martin's strange behavior?" Harriet does not believe Mr. Martin is a real gentleman.

"afloat..."   (Volume I - Chapter IV)

By "aloat" Emma means that Mr. Martin's share in the family property is inaccessible. In this case, he is invested in the lands and animals of the family farm.

"deposit..."   (Volume I - Chapter VI)

The word "deposit" refers to something which is entrusted to another for safekeeping. Here, the deposit is the portrait.

"secure..."   (Volume I - Chapter VII)

The word "secure" means sure and certain. In this case, Mr. Martin is certain of maintaining her friendship.

"pressed..."   (Volume I - Chapter VII)

The word "pressed" means urged to do something, in this case read the letter of proposal.

"ill-equipped..."   (Volume I - Chapter X)

The word "ill-equipped" means not appropriately prepared; in this case, an improperly laced boot.

"perforce..."   (Volume I - Chapter X)

The word "perforce" means forced because of circumstances; in this case, a lack of money.

"contrive..."   (Volume I - Chapter X)

The verb "to contrive" means to make something happen by trickery or deceit; in this case, wrangling an invitation to go into the house.

"higher ties..."   (Volume I - Chapter XI)

In this context, "higher ties" means a greater commitment to husband and children than to father and sister.

"encouraging..."   (Volume I - Chapter XIII)

In this context, the word "encouraging" means inviting his attention and giving him reason to hope his feelings might be returned.

"despatch..."   (Volume I - Chapter XIII)

The word "despatch" means a prompt disposal; in this case, a speedy consumption of food by the hungry men.

"half and half state..."   (Volume I - Chapter XV)

In this context, this phrase describes a half-drunk (and therefore half-sober) condition.

"shod..."   (Volume I - Chapter XV)

Her feet are covered with pretty (and presumably impractical) shoes.

"ulcerated..."   (Volume I - Chapter XV)

The word "ulcerated" means keeping some organ of the body from functioning properly; in this case, the throat.

"analogy..."   (Volume I - Chapter XVI)

Here, "youth and the cheerfulness of morning" are analogous—connected and much the same.

"did him no service..."   (Volume I - Chapter XVI)

The phrase "did him no service" means did not help him make his case or argument. Here, it did not help his chances of getting Emma to accept his proposal.

"intelligence..."   (Volume I - Chapter XVII)

In this context, the word "intelligence" means news about Mr. Elton.

"in the dark..."   (Volume I - Chapter XVII)

The phrase "in the dark" means to be in a state of unawareness about something which should probably be known. In this case, Mr. Elton is not, in fact, romantically interested in Harriet.

"declaration..."   (Volume I - Chapter XVIII)

The word "declaration" means statement. In this case, the statement is that he intends to go home and visit his father, with or without permission.

"excessively..."   (Volume II - Chapter I)

The word "excessively" means to a high intensity or degree; in this case, they really, really want her to come.

"make enough of her..."   (Volume II - Chapter I)

In this context, "make enough of her" means to celebrate her or show her how much we love and appreciate her.

"coming in upon one's friends before the look-out begins..."   (Volume II - Chapter V)

In other words, this phrase means creating a surprise by arriving before anyone was watching for him.

"distinct..."   (Volume II - Chapter VI)

The word "distinct" means clear. In this case, distinct means true, as in her true thoughts and feelings about people.

"I hate the recollection..."   (Volume II - Chapter VIII)

In other words, the phrase "I hate the recollection" means "I hate thinking about it, about leaving so soon."

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