Emma

by: Jane Austen

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.

This quotation, which follows Emma and Mr. Knightley’s betrothal in Chapter 49, could be taken as the novel’s motto. The quotation says that although almost all human speech holds something back, or doesn’t tell the entire truth, as long as the speech is loyal to the speaker’s feelings, the fact that we talk without complete truth is not a big deal. The novel is filled with disguises and mistakes. Some are more reprehensible than others, and some are more avoidable than others. Though Elton’s insincerity and Frank’s conscious deception are critically portrayed—and Emma’s mistakes gently corrected—we are left with the sense that, to some degree, misunderstandings are made inevitable by the social conventions that govern human intercourse, and by the imperfections of human communication itself. The remedy for such imperfect communication, according to this quotation, is the genuine emotion of the human heart.