Emma - Rebel or Conformist?
Near the town of Highbury, a village located in the eighteenth century English countryside, sits the estate of Hartfield where Emma Woodhouse resides with her health conscious father who finds fault with all of life's necessities. When Emma's governess and close comrade, Miss Taylor, marries Mr. Weston, an affluent neighbor, and moves to his nearby estate, sociable Emma is forced to find herself a new companion. Harriet Smith, a naive teen who lives at Mrs. Goddard's boarding school, though of a lower class due to her illegitimacy, seems desperately in need of Emma's management and counsel. Sure that she was the cause of the perfect match between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston, Emma is determined to find an equally exceptional match for Harriet. The young rector, Mr. Elton, seems the perfect candidate for a future husband, and Emma sets out to match her new friend with the young clergyman.
The imaginative Emma views Mr. Elton as falling deeply in love with Harriet and greatly encourages Harriet's feelings for him to inflame. When an old friend of Harriet's, Robert Martin, who is equal to her in social status, sends her a marriage proposal, Emma quickly discourages it and helps Harriet write the letter of refusal. Mr. Knightely, Emma's neighbor and close friend is greatly disappointed by this action and tells Emma that Harriet made a formidable mistake in refusing such an offer. Emma does not care for this response for in her eyes Mr. Elton's feelings for Harriet are blossoming beautifully and are quickly being reciprocated.
On the eve of a dinner held at the Weston's estate, Harriet comes down with a cold and Emma is disappointed in Mr. Elton's lack of sympathy for the invalid. The snow falls heavily the night of the party and the guests are forced to leave early. Inconveniently, Emma finds herself alone in the carriage with Mr. Elton , who professes his love for Emma. Much taken aback by this confession, she rebukes him for not caring about Harriet and denies his feelings. They continue the ride in silence and soon after, Mr. Elton leaves for a stay in Bath and Emma is forced to tell Harriet the heart breaking news.
Jane Fairfax, a girl of Emma's age, comes to stay with Mrs. and Miss Bates and brings along the news that Mr. Elton has hastily engaged himself to a women he met while traveling. Another guest, Frank Churchill, Mr. Weston's son by a first marriage, comes to Highbury, bringing with him mystery as well as assumed love for Emma. Mr. Churchill, to the dismay of Mr. Knightely, who finds great fault with the young man, pays close attention and flirts extensively with Emma, while at the same time indulging her story about Jane and a secret love affair. Frank is called away to tend a sick aunt, and Emma realizes she does not really love him. Her confusion about her feelings quickly subsides, though, when Mr. Elton and his new, snobbish wife arrive and Emma finds herself comforting Harriet. ...