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. In Highbury, there is almost no competition for her.
  • Break the Haughty: It turns out she's not the romance expert she thought she was.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: She is somewhat good at just about everything, such as music, drawing, painting, and embroidery, but never studied far enough along to truly be excellent at any of them, having lost interest.
  • Daddy's Girl: Mr Woodhouse absolutely adores her, and she returns his affection. She takes exemplary care of his physical health and is highly mindful of his emotional well-being, doing her best never to allow him to be worried or distressed. The quickest way to earn Emma's wrath is to be unkind to him and the fastest way to her good graces is to consider his comfort.
  • 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When the Coles plan a party, Emma mentally crafts her well-mannered refusal to the inevitable invitation—and then when they don't invite her she's outraged. (They do send the invite eventually, but hesitated precisely because they didn't want to offend her and because they needed to make accommodation for Mr. Woodhouse. The concern for her father's health turns Emma's opinion quite around.)
  • 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.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When she believes that Mr. Knightley may actually have fallen for Harriet, she's deeply depressed since it's caused her to realize that she's in love with him. But she comes to the conclusion that, if that's the person who will make him happy, she'll do her best to accept it.
  • 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 and sees romance everywhere.
  • Nice to the Waiter: It doesn't come up much, but she shows real affection for her servants. When Harriet goes to visit the Martins, for instance, Emma spends the time with a retired servant who lives nearby.
  • 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. 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 associated with the archetype. Quite realistically, she cannot be sweet to everyone: 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 them 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.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Mrs Weston (Emma's former governess and close family friend) gushed about Emma's loveliness and especially her sparkling bright hazel eyes.

George Knightley

  • Affectionate Nickname: Once their feelings for each other are confirmed, he gives our heroine the pet name of "my Emma." She, in turn, can never call him anything but "Mr. Knightley," but it's implied that she means it to be this trope.
  • Cool Uncle: His brother John's sons adore him.
  • Gentleman Snarker: He can be sarcastic and ironic, but he always stays a perfect gentleman, even to overbearing people like the Eltons. Instead, most of his sarcasm is reserved for people he's known long enough that they wouldn't take it badly, like Emma.
  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: He's always liked Emma, but he didn't realize how intense his feelings were until he saw her and Frank Churchill together.
  • 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 late 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. He's generous and attentive towards everyone around him. He sends the Bateses his last apples, minds Jane's health better than her secret fiancee does, and dances with Harriet after he witnesses her being publicly snubbed by Elton.
  • Only Sane Man: He behaves far more maturely and rationally than anyone else in Highbury; while there are other intelligent characters, like Emma, Mr. Knightley 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.
  • The Ditherer: Whether it's deciding whether or not to marry Robert Martin or whether to have her purchases sent to Hartfield or Mrs. Goddard's. If Harriet is making a decision in Emma's presence, she simply doesn't make it until Emma speaks up herself and says what she approves of.
  • 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.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Emma considers her story to be sympathetic and assumes that gentleman callers will as well, though Emma assumes there's far more going on in Harriet's backstory than there actually is.
  • 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 thinks it will be no good for either, though he does eventually acknowledge that Emma has helped to improve Harriet in some ways.
  • 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 has three infatuations in total. First is Robert Martin whom 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

  • Babies Ever After: By the end of the book, she has given birth to her first child, Anna.
  • Cool Big Sis: Although she was supposedly a mother-figure, she was more like a friend and sister to Emma because they adored each other so much. This in turn resulted in Emma not really having a lot of parental discipline growing up.
  • 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 dote upon 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.
  • Parents as People: He had to give up his son to wealthier relatives, being unable to raise a child for most of his youth. While Mr. Weston is exceedingly proud of Frank and talks about him at every opportunity, he wasn't able to give him much fatherly guidance.

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.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A male example. At first everyone finds him very agreeable and he comes across as a very friendly, gentlemanly, if rather silly young man. Midway through, he's revealed to being a gold digging Jerkass and thoroughgoing snob who only affects good manners for people he considers important.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: After Emma rejects him, Mr. Elton goes off to Bristol and marries Augusta Hawkins almost immediately.
  • 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. He seems quite proud of her and even fond of her though.
  • 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. Despite this, 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.
  • Easily Forgiven: Lampshaded by Knightley, who remarks on how eager everyone is to forgive his inattention to his father and stepmother, his flirtation with Emma, his careless manners, and his forcing Jane to keep a secret.
  • Gone Horribly Right: He has to keep his engagement a secret to avoid upsetting his aunt, and he chooses to do so by convincing everyone he's in love with Emma. He also convinces Jane, and she nearly breaks the engagement as a result.
  • 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 lifestyle.
  • I Have to Go Iron My Dog: He rushes off to London to get a haircut, to the befuddlement of all. (Actually, he went there to secretly buy a piano for Jane.)
  • 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 fiancée's feelings and openly flirting with another woman in front of her supposedly so nobody will suspect his true inclinations. 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.
  • Ladykiller in Love: A Regency variation: we have no evidence that he's had any relationships prior to the story, but he's clearly an accomplished flirt and enjoys the company of beautiful ladies. All the time he's madly in love with Jane Fairfax.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: He's extremely eager to join Highbury society, as the Churchills live in a secluded estate and he hasn't had much chance for socializing with his peers.
  • Romantic False Lead: Has a bit of a strong flirtation with Emma when he first arrives on the scene.
  • Secret Relationship: With Jane Fairfax. They're been secretly engaged for months before The Reveal.

Jane Fairfax

  • Condescending Compassion: She is on the receiving end of it from Mrs Elton. Mrs Elton was charmed by Jane's beauty, her many accomplishments, her talent in music, her what she calls timidity and her life story of an orphaned girl who will likely have to become a governess. Mrs Elton feels superior and tries to help her, and because Jane is poor and of less consequence than her wanna-be-mentor, she often has to civilly accept the unwanted attention.
  • English Rose: She has a 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.
  • 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.)
  • Happily Adopted: Her parents both died when she was a little 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 has some loving family left: her mother's sister and mother love her deeply, and her father's friend 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.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Her general attitude towards Mrs. Elton, who tries to take her under her wing. One of the "helpful" things is trying to find her a position as a governess. Mrs. Elton really forces it on poor Jane and cannot take a hint, nor does she take no for an answer.
  • 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, and is particularly proud that she named her eldest son (Henry) after him.
  • 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.
  • Playing Sick: It's heavily implied that a lot of people think he's a hypochondriac, but they tolerate it because he's such a Nice Guy, as noted above. Austen herself noted that he dies two years after the end of the book, so at least some of his conditions were legitimate.

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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Not quite a jerk, but he is gruff and impatient at times and isn't as good at keeping his temper as his brother. Underneath it all, he loves his family dearly and has great respect for his father-in-law.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Not as much as some, but Emma finds his indulgence in sarcasm towards her father rather provoking and sometimes hard to forgive.

Isabella Knightley, nee Woodhouse

  • 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, to quote from the narrative. 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.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Though she dearly loves her husband, she doesn't seem to realize how sarcastic he often is.

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.
  • Family Theme Naming: All five children are named after one of their immediate relatives. Henry is named for Mr. Woodhouse, John is named for his father, Bella is named for her mother, George is named for Uncle Knightley, and Emma is of course named for Aunt Emma.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: There are five 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

  • Condescending Compassion: Newly married to a local clergyman, she immediately fancies herself the best, most respectable woman of the neighbourhood, even among the long-settled families of country gentry. She is quite rich and a new bride, so people in Highbury respect her and tolerate her to a certain degree, but she is insufferable. She forces her friendship and tries to mentor especially Jane Fairfax, who is an accomplished young lady, and because she is poor and of less consequence, she can't escape Mrs Elton's condescending good will as well as other characters.
  • It's All About Me: In almost every conversation we see her having, she manages to turn the subject to herself in some way.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nouveau Riche: Her name hints at this; Greek names were trendy at the time and it contributes to the puffed-up impression she gives, as opposed to the good old-fashioned English names that everyone else has.
  • 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.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: She was one of the richest and most consequential people in her hometown and seems incapable of realizing that that doesn't hold true in Highbury.

Robert Martin

  • 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.
  • Nice Guy: He's very sweet to Harriet when she spends a few weeks with his family.
  • Odd Friendship: With Mr. Knightley. He's described as a gentleman farmer and Mr. Knightley appreciates having him as his tenant. 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 the 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.