by: Jane Austen

Chapters 28–30

Frank’s request that Jane play one of the waltzes from the previous night’s dance is similarly misinterpreted by Emma. He says:

If you are very kind, [you will play] one of the waltzes we danced last night; let me live them over again. You did not enjoy them as I did; you appeared tired the whole time. I believe you were glad we danced no longer; I would have given worlds—all the worlds one ever has to give—for another half-hour.

As Frank’s dance partner, Emma believes that Frank’s directs his compliment toward her—that he implies to Jane that she did not enjoy the dancing because Emma and Frank were not dancing together. Once Frank’s relationship with Jane is revealed, it becomes clear that that Frank would have given worlds for another half-hour not because he wished to dance more with Emma, but because he wanted the opportunity to ask Jane. When Jane complies with Frank’s request by playing a tune that Frank recognizes as one that was danced at Weymouth, Jane flushes, and Emma assumes Jane is embarrassed because she had danced with Mr. Dixon to that song. In hindsight, it is clear that Frank was Jane’s partner.

When Frank takes his leave of Emma before returning to Enscombe, our confusion about his feelings for Emma increases. After mentioning to Emma that he has already said goodbye to the Bateses and Jane, Frank hesitates, then says, “[P]erhaps, Miss Woodhouse—I think you can hardly be quite without suspicion—.” This remark sounds to us, as it does to Emma, like the prelude to some sort of admission of love. Once we know Frank’s true circumstances, though, it becomes clear that Frank is considering making Emma a genuine friend by letting her in on his and Jane’s secret.

Emma’s thoughts about Frank reveal to us that she is lying to herself about loving him; she only enjoys the attention Frank’s courtship brings her. She takes pleasure in dancing with him because everyone else admires what a fine couple they are, not because the two share any intimacy. She is excited with the prospect of seeing him each day because she knows that he admires her and because she suspects that he harbors feelings for her. She misses his company because it has enlivened Highbury, but she does not miss him as a person. At the conclusion of Chapter 30, Emma’s attempt to convince herself that she loves Frank—“I must be in love; I should be the oddest creature in the world if I were not—for a few weeks at least”—shows us that Emma does not (yet) truly understand what love feels like.

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