eyes were instantly withdrawn; and she sat silently meditating,
in a fixed attitude, for a few minutes. A few minutes were sufficient
for making her acquainted with her own heart. A mind like hers,
once opening to suspicion, made rapid progress; she touched, she
admitted, she acknowledged the whole truth. Why was it so much worse that
Harriet should be in love with Mr. Knightley than with Frank Churchill?
Why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet’s having some
hope of a return? It darted through her with the speed of an arrow
that Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!
This quotation, from Chapter 47,
comes in the midst of Emma’s conversation with Harriet in which
Harriet confesses her feelings for Mr. Knightley. For the majority
of the novel, Emma’s suspicions and her attention have been misdirected,
focusing on Harriet’s possible matches and on her speculations about
Jane. Once her perceptiveness and ability to see beyond appearances
are finally directed appropriately (after her realization that Frank
and Jane are engaged), she makes a swift leap forward in her own
self-understanding. However, Emma does not come to the realization
that she loves Knightley on her own; only her jealousy of Harriet
brings her there. The relationship between Emma and Knightley, though
based on their private history together, takes shape only in the
context of the surrounding web of social relationships.