How much older is Mr. Knightley than Emma?

Emma is 21 years old, and Mr. Knightley is 37 to 38 years old, so he is about 17 years her senior. While their age gap is fairly large by today’s standards, it would have been common in Jane Austen’s time. Men would often not marry in their mid to late twenties because they needed to work hard in their young adulthood to amass enough money to provide for an entire household – in fact, Emma even affirms this fact to Harriet when explaining why Mr. Martin should not marry at such a young age. Women of the upper or middle classes generally did not or could not make money, and if they did work, it was often inside their own homes. Therefore, their husbands needed to be financially stable enough to support them, their children, and any household staff on one income.

As a gentleman, Mr. Knightley would not have needed to wait to marry for financial reasons, as he was born into great wealth, but all the same, it would have been entirely acceptable for him to marry a much younger woman such as Emma. On the other hand, women were under immense pressure to marry young, and as quickly as possible. Marriage and the bearing of children were markers of a woman’s societal and domestic value, and it was considered a humiliation to fail at achieving either of these milestones. Additionally, women could not inherit or own money or property, so marriage was a necessity to secure financial stability. Emma, coming from a very wealthy family, did not need to worry about money and was lucky enough to marry mainly for love, although she certainly would have been expected to partner with someone of a similar or superior class.

What does Mr. Knightley think of Emma and Harriet's friendship?

Mr. Knightley does not approve of Emma and Harriet’s friendship, feeling that no good will come out of it for either party. He believes that Emma is misguided by a bias toward Harriet, thinking that her good looks and sweet personality will be enough to catapult her into a class station far above her actual reality. A wealthy gentleman would not have made a match with Harriet – as is affirmed by Mr. Elton – because her education, upbringing, class, and parentage would have been an embarrassment to him and his social circle. Mr. Knightley feels that Emma is giving Harriet false hopes of being chosen for marriage by a high-class man, and that Harriet will be doomed to a life of disappointment and spinsterhood should she continue to rebuke the advances of men like Mr. Martin who are actually within her reach. Additionally, Mr. Knightley also believes that Emma is not receiving the companionship she needs through her friendship with Harriet. While Emma is intelligent, high-spirited, and talented, Harriet will not challenge or excite Emma intellectually. Harriet brings out Emma’s manipulative side and superiority complex rather than pushing against it. Indeed, Mr. Knightley’s concerns are valid – the women’s friendship does in fact give Harriet an ego beyond her class and increases Emma’s vanity and shallowness.

How did Emma offend Miss Bates?

Throughout the novel, Emma has commented on how tedious conversations with Miss Bates can be, as Miss Bates tends to take over any dialogue she’s a part of. She means well – often, she flatters and compliments her conversation partner, and she’s always eager to share news of her beloved niece Jane – and her social circle tolerates her effusiveness with politeness, but it’s clear that her talkative nature, along with the boring and repetitive topics she tends to speak on, can be an annoyance to Emma and her peers.

When Emma, Frank Churchill, Miss Bates, and the rest of their group enjoy a day on Box Hill, Frank is in a bad mood due to an ongoing argument with his secret fiancée Jane Fairfax. With their engagement unknown to anyone else in the group, the two must be discreet, and in order to annoy Jane without giving away their position, Frank taunts her by flirting openly with Emma. Part of his flirtation includes a request that each person in the group perform for Emma by saying one thing exceedingly clever, two things mildly clever, or three things very dull. Miss Bates, always self-effacing, jokes good-naturedly that it will be very easy for her to say three dull things, as she can always be counted on to do so even when they’re not playing games. Emma, who has been bantering with Frank Churchill, quips back that the challenge for Miss Bates will not be thinking of three dull things, but rather limiting herself to only three, implying that Miss Bates often says far more than just three boring things in every conversation. Emma’s comment isn’t meant to be terribly mean – she’s in a humorous mood from flirting with Frank and has always enjoyed using her sharp wit – but it’s immediately clear that her comment has hurt Miss Bates’ feelings and is not appreciated by most of their companions. Later, Mr. Knightley explains to Emma the extent of her rudeness, telling her that if Miss Bates were her financial and social equal, Emma would have more liberty to throw her a witty insult now and then. But Miss Bates is not her equal – she is in a sad situation in which she has lost most of her money and relies on the good graces of her wealthy friends to stay afloat – and this makes Emma’s meanness all the more unacceptable. Emma is kicking Miss Bates while she’s down, rather than being understanding of the pressure Miss Bates feels to please and ingratiate herself with the very people whom she relies on for survival.

Why did Frank Churchill hide his engagement?

In early 19th-century England, it was important for people to marry well, generally to others with a similar class standing and family lineage. Although Frank Churchill’s situation is a bit complex – he was born to a wealthy father but was brought up by his even wealthier aunt and uncle – he is undoubtedly a gentleman of very high standing and a lot of money. His aunt, who is characterized as a formidable and controlling woman, would never allow him to marry below his rank, and would expect him to make an impressive match. Jane Fairfax is not on Frank Churchill’s class level – while she was born to a wealthy family, that family has lost much of their money since. While they still maintain some of the status afforded to them by having an upper-class family lineage, Jane doesn’t have an inheritance and is forced to consider taking a position as a governess to support herself financially. Jane would not be an equal match for Frank Churchill in terms of class, and his aunt would have been completely against their union. Fortunately, Jane was raised by her father’s wealthy family friend, who gave her an excellent education and was able to introduce her to gentlemen such as Frank. He falls in love with Jane despite her class and wishes to marry her, but he knows his aunt will be an obstacle to the marriage and will actively try to break Jane and Frank apart should she know about their feelings. The two lovers keep their engagement secret, biding their time until Frank’s aunt, who is quite old and has been struggling with her health for some years, eventually dies. Once she’s gone, Frank is free to make the engagement public and move forward with plans for marriage.

Why does Emma not want to marry?

Emma has multiple reasons for not wanting to marry. She enjoys being the head of the Hartfield estate – which includes organizing household matters, controlling interior design, throwing parties and events – and if she were to marry, she’d need to leave Hartfield to live at her husband’s home. On a similar note, Emma’s father is quite needy – he’s a nervous hypochondriac, he’s not organized enough to run a household, and he’s grown increasingly lonely after the loss of his wife and the separation from both his daughter Isabella and governess Miss Taylor. Emma knows that her father would be deeply wounded by her absence and that he would be left entirely alone should she marry.

But perhaps Emma’s most important reason for not marrying is that she has not met someone that she is truly attracted to or impressed by. She knows herself to be charming, but she has not found someone who matches her wits and social graces. She does take a brief interest in Frank Churchill, but not only is he already spoken for by Jane Fairfax, he reveals himself to be too immature for Emma. It is not until Emma’s connection to Mr. Knightley is threatened by Harriet’s interest that she realizes Mr. Knightley possesses everything she is searching for in a husband, and that she has feelings for him. Not only is he an excellent match in terms of class status, he is also Emma’s intellectual equal, capable of challenging and exciting her. He also exemplifies what it means to be a kind, responsible, and serious adult – something that no other man, including her own father, has been able to fully model for her. When Emma realizes that Mr. Knightley could be married to someone other than her, effectively ending his frequent visits to Hartfield – the only times in which she is intellectually invigorated – she finally understands how essential his presence is to her contentment.