Characters / Emma

Caveat lector! major spoilers ahoy! Proceed reading with caution.

Emma Woodhouse

  • The Ace: She could have been this had she been more diligent with her lessons; she's beautiful, intelligent, and talented.
  • Break the Haughty: It turns out she's not the romance expert she thought she was.
  • Daddy's Girl: Mr Woodhouse absolutely adores her, and she returns his affection. She takes exemplary care of his physical health, but even moreso of his emotional well-being.
  • Deadpan Snarker: She's very intelligent and some of her comments are quite smart ass.
  • Driven by Envy/Green-Eyed Monster: She is kind of jealous of Jane Fairfax, who is very beautiful and very accomplished.
  • Happily Married: To Mr. Knightley, in the end.
  • Indifferent Beauty: Emma is loveliness itself and "the picture of health". She's easily one of the most handsome heroines in Jane Austen's verse, but she really doesn't care about it. She takes pride in being clever, intelligent and capable.
  • Missing Mom: Mrs Woodhouse died when Emma was very little and she barely remembers her. Miss Taylor, her governess, substituted her mother emotionally.
  • Miss Imagination: She has a vivid imagination. She sees romance everywhere.
  • Oblivious to Love: Big time. She doesn't catch on to Mr. Elton's feelings for her until it's too late, and then it takes her the second half of the book to realize that Mr. Knightley is deeply in love with her.
  • Odd Friendship: With Harriet. They are neither social nor intellectual equals. Emma wants to educate Harriet, and amuses herself by trying to finding her a proper match. She genuinely likes her, though, and Harriet is more for her than just a project. Meanwhile, Harriet is awed that the highly regarded and very beautiful Miss Woodhouse takes an interest with her.
    • Somewhat deconstructed in that Emma eventually realizes that, despite her affection for Harriet, the friendship has done neither of them any good and only made Harriet's life more complicated and difficult than it needed to be.
  • The Matchmaker: Matchmaking is Emma's favourite hobby. She insists it's the most superior challenge of mind.
  • Shipper on Deck: She takes credit for helping Mr Weston to court Miss Taylor, though how involved she actually was in the whole matter is unclear (the story opens on the Westons' wedding day). Later she's trying to set up Harriet with Mr. Elton. This match doesn't end well. Later still, she passively supports Frank Churchill and Harriet, though by that time she has learned not to actively meddle.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Her supposed matchmaking skills. She helped to form one successful match.
  • Spirited Young Lady: She's very vivacious, very lively and has an open temper. She loves walking, and she's a good musician and a talented painter. She openly talks about not wanting to get married because she's rich and therefore it would be silly to get married without love.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Emma Woodhouse is an Unbuilt Trope. She is a young woman of landed gentry in the position to behave like a Rich Bitch; she is spoiled by her doting father and her loving governess, but she also has a happy disposition, loves her family and friends, and treats servants and people of lower social standings really well. She is charitable to the poor, but doesn't have romantic ideas about them. Notably, she lacks the naivety and cheerfulness asociated with the archetype. Quite realistically, she cannot be sweet to everone: she doesn't like Jane Fairfax and really dislikes the insufferable Mrs Elton, but tries to be polite to them. She finds some of her neighbours tiresome, but treats them with compassion and respect. She rarely slips and is rude or unkind, but whenever that happens, she repents deeply.
  • Wealthy Philanthropist: Emma is a rich young lady and she is very compassionate to the poor. She visits the poor personally and assists them as best as she can. She also sends food and gifts to Mrs and Miss Bates, two ladies from a clergyman's family who fell into harder times.

George Knightley

  • Gentleman Snarker: He can be sarcastic and ironic, but he always stays a perfect gentleman, even to overbearing people like the Eltons.
  • Happily Married: To Emma, in the end.
  • The Jail Bait Wait: He tells Emma that he's been in love with her since she was thirteen, at which time he was in his mid-twenties. Given that Regency marriages could easily have a fifteen year old bride, it's more surprising that he waited as long as he did to make his feelings known.
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. George Knightley.
  • Only Sane Man: He behaves far more maturely and rationally than anyone else in Highbury—while there are other intelligent characters, like Emma, Mr. Knightly is much more sensible.
  • Shipper on Deck: To a much lesser extent than Emma. He supports Robert Martin's courtship of Harriet, while Emma roots for Harriet/Elton, but he doesn't interpose beyond giving Robert Martin advice after being asked.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: He's very attractive physically, described in great detail during the ball.

Harriet Smith

  • Brainless Beauty: Harriet is extremely pretty and becomes popular in Highbury once Emma takes her under her wing, but she's silly, not at all clever and unable to decide for herself about anything. Emma puts ideas in her head, and one of them is that she has a right to get married well because of her looks. She also fulfills the boy-crazy part of the trope because she falls in love very easily.
  • Dumb Blonde: Harriet is a very pretty, plump blonde, but she is not all that bright, at least compared with the very clever Emma.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's a blonde girl with a very soft heart. She's mild and affectionate, though a bit slow and not very clever or reasonable.
  • Happily Married: Emma tries to invoke the trope for Harriet by finding her a suitable husband. She ends up marrying her first crush, Robert Martin, and they in all probability do achieve the trope, since the match is based on mutual affection. His family genuinely like Harriet, too.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: She has big blue eyes, and she's a sweet and naive girl who is happy that Miss Woodhouse befriends her.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Harriet is called silly, unassuming, or a simpleton over the course of the novel. She's not a smart girl, but very kind, mild and meek. Emma believes her good heart makes up for the lack of intelligence and that she would make an ideal wife for a gentleman.
  • Odd Friendship: With Emma. Mr Knightley in particular think it will be no good for either.
  • Parental Abandonment: There's no knowledge about her background, leaving it open for guessing. Emma's theory is that she might be from a rich gentleman's family. To be fair, it's a good guess, since it's known that someone's been paying for her boarding school tuition. She does eventually find her biological father just before she marries. He's a businessman who has done well; pretty much Robert Martin's urban counterpart.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: She (in turns) has three infatuations in total. First is Robert Martin who she eventually marries, second is Mr. Elton, and third is Mr. Knightley.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: Her most striking feature, according to Emma. She has soft blue eyes.

Anne Weston nee Taylor

  • Cool Teacher: Before she married Mr. Weston, she was a caring and supportive governess to both Emma and Isabella.
  • Happily Married: Mr and Mrs Weston are very happy together. Everybody can see it, except for Mr Woodhouse, who wishes Miss Taylor had never gotten married and stayed at Hartfield with him and Emma.
  • Parental Substitute: To Emma, and to Isabella before she got married. She also becomes a devoted stepmother to Frank Churchill, who clearly adores her.
  • Second Love: She's Mr. Weston's second wife. He's very satisfied with his lot in life, and he seems to adore her. His first wife is said to have been unreasonable and haughty.
  • Shipper on Deck: For a short while she supports Mr. Knightley/Jane Fairfax. It doesn't even come close to actually happening.

Mr. Weston

  • Happily Married: To Anne Taylor.
  • Last Name Basis: His first name is never mentioned in the narrative.
  • Love You and Everybody: He's extremely friendly with everybody, almost inappropriately so for a gentleman. Emma finds out it's no great compliment to be considered his particular friend and favourite. His intelligence and proper gentlemanlike behaviour save him from being insufferable.
  • Nice Guy: Everybody is his favourite and he is a favourite with everybody. He's a happy man most of his time.

The Rev. Philip Elton

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Gives a rather unexpected one to Emma when they are alone in a carriage after the Christmas party. Needless to say, it's completely one-sided. Though the anguish he suffers is more social and economic than emotional, as Emma clearly sees his passion to be for her money and position rather than her person.
  • Gold Digger: Male example. Mr Knightley saw that in him when he tells Emma that Elton eagerly talked about his sisters being intimate with wealthy ladies.
  • Hopeless Suitor: To Emma. Special emphasis on hopeless.
  • Henpecked Husband: He ends up marrying the rich but domineering Augusta Hawkins.
  • Jerkass: After he realizes that he will not have Emma, he starts ignoring her, as far as he can ignore one of the the most important people in the neighbourhood. He openly snubs Harriet at the ball by refusing to dance with her and being triumphant about it.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He's the local vicar, so he counts as a gentleman, but he's neither very rich nor very important. Yet he considers himself a worthy suitor of the richest and most prominent young woman in the neighborhood. Emma is frankly insulted by his proposal.

Frank Churchill

  • Chick Magnet: He's very handsome and he knows it. Emma likes him immediately, and the rather distant and cold Jane Fairfax falls for him really hard.
  • Romantic False Lead: Has a bit of a strong flirtation with Emma when he first arrives on the scene.
  • Handsome Lech: He's very attractive, playful and charming. But he's also irresponsible and plays double games with everybody.
  • Happily Adopted: Played With. He's not absolutely dissatisfied with his new family; he especially likes his uncle, and he certainly doesn't dislike being the heir of very nice fortune. However, his aunt is a difficult and whimsical woman who influences important decisions. He also dislikes their secluded upper-upper class life style.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Well, he's not exactly a jerk, but he is a very fickle, self-absorbed, and thoughtless young man who entertains himself by toying with his secret fiance's feelings and openly flirting with another woman in front of her. But when he realizes how much he's hurt her, he immediately repents, throws caution to the winds, and decides to run with the relationship come what may.
  • Secret Relationship: With Jane Fairfax. They're been secretly engaged for months before The Reveal.

Jane Fairfax

  • Ill Girl: She has shattered health, which is a family trait. However, she's also depressed and fatigued mentally, which contributes to her physical weakness. (Word of God says she died of tuberculosis.)
  • English Rose: She has delicate, porcelain-like complexion and she's an elegant beauty. She's devoted to her family, both her aunt and grandmother, and also she's a dear daughter to her adoptive family, the Campbells.
  • Happily Adopted: Her parents both died when she was a girl, and her father's friend Colonel Campbell wished to help her; over time, as she became his daughter's cherished playmate, she grew increasingly regarded as a member of the Campbell family. The narrator says she never knew anything but kindness from her guardians and they provided her with an excellent education. Jane herself always speaks very highly and affectionately of them.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: She's an orphaned girl, but luckily, she had some loving family left: her mother's sister and mother love her deeply, and her father's friend felt he should help her. He and his wife took her as their own, and she knew nothing but kindness from them and received an excellent education from them.
  • Proper Lady: Almost too proper if you ask Emma. She's beautiful, intelligent, accomplished and gentle, and seems to be admired by everybody. Emma thinks she should be friendlier and livelier.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: She has dark hair and dark eyelashes, and her complexion is fair, smooth and delicate without being pale. Everyone, even Emma, regards her as an elegant and beautiful lady.
  • Secret Relationship: With Frank Churchill. They knew each other from London society, and then they were both spending some time in Weymouth, Jane with her family and friends. They belonged to the same social circle and quickly fell in love.
  • invoked Stop Helping Me!: Her general attitude towards Mrs. Elton who tries to take her under her wing.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: Her deep grey eyes with dark eyelashes and dark eyebrows, described in great detail.

Mr Woodhouse

  • Doting Parent: He absolutely adores Emma, not seeing a single fault in her. He also loves his eldest daughter Isabella and her five children.
  • Nice Guy: Everyone agrees that he's very annoying, with his nervousness and eccentricities, but he's so kind that he's very popular nonetheless.
  • Overprotective Dad: He's over-anxious about food, sleep, exercise, social gatherings, and pretty much everything else. Emma is quite skillful at masterminding how to arrange things for his comfort while at the same time satisfying her own wants.

Miss Bates

  • The Caretaker: She takes care of her elderly mother Mrs. Bates.
  • Doting Parent: She's a Doting Aunt for her niece Jane. She never sees a fault in her; to be fair, Jane is a very good and extremely sweet girl. But the aunt's public adoration of the niece grates on Emma's nerves in the extreme, and possibly annoys other people as well.
  • Maiden Aunt: She never married, and there is not even a hint in the narration that she might have had a relationship. She takes care of her elderly mother, and her niece Jane Fairfax is her darling girl.
  • Motor Mouth: She chitchats constantly and according to Mr Woodhouse, she talks a little too fast. Her gossip is mostly accurate, and more important than it appears to be.
  • Old Maid/Spinster: She never married. Her ordeal is quite hard, because she comes from a respectable genteel family, but after her father's death the family lost their chief source of important income and they are poor.
  • Penny Among Diamonds: She used to be rich, but lost her money before the novel begins; it's said that her father was a vicar in Highbury, but since his death she and her mother have had to shift for themselves. Despite being poor, she is generally welcomed into higher social circles because people seem to appreciate her good nature and honesty. People also know that her background is genteel.
  • Walls of Text: Most of her dialogue. It is hilarious, jumping from one topic to another without a much as taking a breath. Emma is sometimes amused by it, but annoyed at times.

John Knightley

  • Deadpan Snarker: Just like his brother, though naturally a bit less mature about it.
  • Happily Married: With Isabella, Emma's older sister. They have five healthy children and he's a caring father and husband. He's sometimes too snarky with his less intelligent wife, who doesn't notice.

Isabella Knightley

  • Cool Big Sis: Averted, in that she's basically a younger, female version of her illness-petrified father; Emma, though eight or so years younger, actually fills the role better. However, Emma seems to admire her for having married so well and so happily.
  • Daddy's Girl: Her father loves her dearly, though he's closer to Emma who is his caretaker.
  • Doting Parent: Her five children are the joy of her life, and given her youth and the genuine affection of her marriage, there may well be more on the way.
  • Happily Married: A paragon of feminine happiness. She adores her husband and lives for her five children.
  • Missing Mom: Her mother died when she was but a young girl. Luckily for Isabella and her sister, their governess was very motherly and caring.
  • Proper Lady: She's a sweet woman, beautiful, elegant, an affectionate mother, wife, sister and daughter, and a perfect hostess. She quite fulfills the role of "angel of the house" as she never disagrees with her husband.

The Knightley Children: Henry, John, Bella, George, Emma

  • Cheerful Children: They are very endearing. They love playing with their Uncle Knightley, they enjoy Aunt Emma's stories, and they delight their grandpapa.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: There is five of little Knightleys, and the youngest is a baby, so there might be more of them coming.
  • Morality Pets: Emma is at her best playing the loving aunt to her nieces and nephews. She genuinely loves them and enjoys having them around.

Augusta Elton nee Hawkins

  • The Mentor: Subverted. She attempts to be a mentor for Jane Fairfax, but Jane doesn't reciprocate. She also fancies herself Lady Patroness of Highbury and thinks she could and should mentor even the most respectable residents.
  • Jerkass: She doesn't seem to realize how mean she is to most people, and she's blind to the fact that she's less popular with the respectable families in Highbury society than she imagines. She's particularly nasty to Harriet Smith.
  • Rich Bitch: With far less social tact than Emma. She keeps boasting about her wealthy brother-in-law, his mansion house, his gardens, his carriages, his servants etc.

Robert Martin

  • Nice Guy: He's very sweet to Harriet when she spends a few weeks with his family.
  • First Guy Wins: Of the three men Harriet fancies through the course of the story, he was the first and he gets her in the end.
  • Happily Married: He eventually marries Harriet, with whom he was in love since the beginning of the book.
  • Odd Friendship: With Mr. Knightley. He's described as a gentleman farmer and Mr Knightley appreciates having him as his tenant a lot. Mr Martin trusts Mr. Knightley and asks for his advice in romantic things.

Mr. Perry

  • Odd Friendship: The local apothecary. He's on friendly terms with Mr Woodhouse.

Mrs. Bates

  • Impoverished Patrician: She used to be a respectable wife of a clergyman, but lost pretty much everything after the late Mr. Bates died.
  • Widow Woman: She's an old widow of former clergyman of Highbury.