Riddle and word games represent the major theme of misperception, as their hidden meaning leaves much open for interpretation and
misinterpretation. Just as Emma
constantly reads romance between the lines of various social interactions, riddles and word games serve as disguised messages of romantic intentions. For those like Emma who possess an incomplete knowledge of others’ and their own hearts, however, these puzzles may contribute to, as opposed to clarifying, the confusion. For instance, Emma interprets Mr. Elton
’s riddle of “courtship” as intended for Harriet
, when it is in fact intended for Emma herself, and Mr. Elton mistakenly interprets Emma’s warm reception of it as encouragement.