A Guide to the Minor Characters of Emma

So now that I have thoroughly introduced you to leading players in the romance that is Emma, it is time for you to meet some of the other characters.

Now through my summaries you should have a brief idea of who everyone is, but in case you have been entirely confused by everything I have written up to this point, here is a guide to the characters of Emma.

I have included part of Jane Austen’s descriptions of the characters.

Mr. Woodhouse: Emma’s Father

He was a nervous man, easily depressed; fond of everybody that he was used to, and hating to part with them; hating change of every kind. 

Mr. Woodhouse is a widower. His wife died when Emma was a baby  and he has been a hypochondriac ever since.  He eats gruel because he finds it healthier and he worries about everyone catching a cold. He is perhaps one of the most endearing characters in the novel. He cares deeply about everyone in his household, though he hates it when anything changes.

Mrs. Weston: Emma’s Old Nurse Maid (formerly Miss Taylor)

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was the intimacy of sisters. 

Mrs. Weston has been Emma’s closest friend since birth and the closest thing she has ever had to a mother. Once Ms. Taylor is happily married to Mr. Weston (a match made by Emma) she tries to play a bit of matchmaking herself. She tries to set Emma up with her step-son, Frank Churchill and then later tries to predict a match between Mr. Knightley and Jane Fairfax. I am unsure as to whether Emma became a matchmaker because of Mrs. Weston’s influence on her or vice versa.

Harriet Smith: Emma’s Friend

Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody…She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be the sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump, and fair with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness.

Harriet is not very bright but incredibly sweet. No one knows exactly where she came from or who her parents were. After Mrs. Weston gets married, Emma finds herself without anyone to talk to at dinner parties so she takes in Harriet as her friend. Harriet is very easily influenced by Emma and is persuaded to turn down the proposal from Mr. Martin. In the course of the book, Harriet falls in love three times.

Mr. Martin: Harriet’s Love Interest

‘What sort of looking man is Mr. Martin?’

‘Oh not handsome–not at all handsome. I thought him plain at first, but I do not think him so plain now. One does not you know after a time.’

Robert Martin is a very sensible man. He is a young farmer on Mr. Knightley’s estate who has fallen in love with Harriet Smith. He is on close terms with Mr. Knightley, who has much respect for him. Most of what is know about Mr. Martin is learned through conversations. He rarely makes an actual appearance. What we do know is he writes good letters, reads sensible books and is heart broken when Harriet turns down his proposal. Luckily he gets the girl in the end.

Mr. Elton: Harriet’s Love Interest (Picked by Emma)

…and by Mr. Elton, a young man living alone without liking it, the privilege of exchanging any vacant evening of his own blank solitude for the elegancies and society of Mr. Woodhouse’s drawing-room, and the smiles of his lovely daughter, was in no danger of being thrown away.

Mr. Elton is a weasel. He wants a pretty wife who has money. He comes to the Woodhouse’s in pursuit of Emma, and when she turns him down he goes off and marries the first woman with money he finds. He is a miserable sort and is the parson of Highbury. So he has the pleasure of marrying all the ladies he either rejected or was rejected by.

Mrs. Elton: Mr. Elton’s Wife (after he is no longer Harriet’s love interest)

…Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior; but with manners which had been formed at a bad school…

Mrs. Elton is an insufferable woman. She is incredibly annoying and thinks way to highly of herself. She never stops talking or judging people.

Frank Churchill: Mrs. Weston’s Stepson

He was a very good-looking man–height, air, address, all were unexceptionable, and his countenance had a great deal of the spirit and liveliness of his father’s-he looked quick and sensible.

After the death of his mother, he was raised by his aunt and uncle, who rarely let him leave. This has caused him to rarely visit his father and to be a mystery to all in Highbury. When he does show up he flirts with Emma constantly and together they mock Jane Fairfax. It comes out later on (after the death of his disapproving aunt) that he was engaged to Jane Fairfax the entire time. This makes his flirtation with Emma and mockery of Jane even worse. However, everyone is able to forgive him and life goes on.

Jane Fairfax: A Beautiful and Proper Woman in Emma’s Society

Jane Fairfax was very elegant, remarkably elegant, and she had herself the highest value for elegance. Her height was pretty, just such as almost everybody would think tall, and nobody could think very tall; her figure particularly grateful; her size a most becoming medium, between fat and thin, though a slight appearance of ill-health seemed to point out the likeliest evil of the two.

Jane Fairfax is an orphan. She grew up away from Highbury, serving as a companion to the daughter of the Campbell’s-a very wealthy family who ensured that Jane grew up well bred. She is quite accomplished and can play the piano beautifully. After the Campbell daughter got married, she moved back home with her aunt. She seeks out the position of a governess while she waits for Frank Churchill’s aunt to die so she can marry him.

Miss Bates: Jane Fairfax’s Aunt

She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth passed without distinction and her middle of life was devoted to the care of her failing mother, and the endeavor to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman and a woman whom no one named without goodwill.

Miss Bates was born into money but has since lost her fortune. She is incredibly talkative, with her favorite subject being her niece-Jane Fairfax. Though she is poor, her friends in high society still treat her very well.


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