Author Archives: Phoebe Bumsted '17

About the Chapters

In Volume 2, Chapter 3 of Emma, we learn that Mr. Elton is engaged.  This chapter is useful in a study of gossip for several reasons.  The chapter begins with a conversation between Emma, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mr. Knightley.  The three discuss a recent party, but Emma and Mr. Knightley are mostly having their own conversation while Mr. Woodhouse interjects with only tangentially relevant comments.  Just as Mr. Knightley is telling Emma that he has some interesting news for her, Miss Bates rushes in and announces that Mr. Elton is engaged.  This news has arrived through a letter to the Coles; Mr. Cole shared it with Mr. Knightley while Mrs. Cole shared it with Miss Bates.  The path of gossip from Mr. Elton to the Coles and now throughout Highbury is significant in the study of this graph.  It is also notable that the information comes from outside and enters the town, where is percolates.  Additionally, we see characters react to the news and discuss it in a group.  This chapter, then, is rich in considering the flow of gossip.

Volume 2, Chapter 8 depicts a party at which we learn that Jane Fairfax has received a mysterious gift of a pianoforte.  We see news of the gift travel throughout the party, and we hear the gossip from several different characters.  This chapter reads almost like a mystery story as characters try to discern who the unseen donor could be.  It is an excellent example of gossip in Emma, as we see how the residents of Highbury gossip with one another.  The party becomes a microcosm of the town; likely all the major characters are there, and we witness how ideas circulate among people.  We hear from two notable characters about their opinions. Mrs. Weston, who often reflects Emma’s own matchmaking tendencies, suggests that the gift-giver could be Mr. Knightley, while Frank Churchill, the donor himself, allows Emma to take the lead in her theorizing.  This chapter allows us to see how gossip circulates in the community and is an ideal sample for study.