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The Connell Guide to
Jane Austen's Emma

Emma is rightly seen as one of Jane Austen's greatest novels. Through the innovative and wonderfully flexible use of what is now called free indirect speech, she enables us to see the world through her wayward heroine's eyes and to understand her faults and share her delusions. In telling the story of how Emma finally comes to know her own heart, Austen creates a world which seems as intense and as real as the one we inhabit. In making us understand Emma's limitations, she brings us to a greater awareness of our own.


  • Introduction
  • A summary of the plot
  • What is Emma about?
  • Why do we fall for Emma?
  • What need in Emma does Harriet satisfy?
  • Is Emma a snob? 
  • How much of a setback to Emma is her humiliation by Mr Elton?
  •  Is Mr Knightley right about Frank Churchill? 
  • Why does Emma so badly misunderstand both Frank and Jane?
  •  How important is Box Hill? 
  • How blind is Mr Knightley? 
  • What is the significance of all the puzzles, mysteries and word games in Emma?
  • What view of the world does Emma leave us with?

Austen, Leavis and Tolstoy

Austen’s outspoken heroines

Free indirect speech

Harriet’s bloom

Women confined

Emma’s fear of sex

Mr Woodhouse’s wealth

The barouche-landau Pianos

The French connection

Ten facts about Emma


Mr Knightley’s sex life

The natural world in Emma


How Emma was received

Reading in Emma

A short chronology