Mr. Knightley finds Emma playing with her niece one evening during Isabella’s visit, and she attempts to restore their friendship. He insists that his sixteen years of seniority and the advantage of not being a spoiled, pretty young woman have given him superior understanding. The two reconcile without either conceding the other’s right.
The novel walks a tension between supporting Emma and her unusual independence as a female protagonist and critiquing her privileged prejudice through Mr. Knightley, who is a figure of paternal correction and is more often than not right.
Mr. Woodhouse and Isabella debate the merits of their favored physicians, Mr. Perry and Mr. Wingfield respectively. Isabella asks after Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates’s niece, suggesting that she will make an amiable companion for Emma. Emma, however, is not fond of the accomplished and beautiful Jane; she finds all the attention and admiration generally given to Jane irksome.
Fidgety, foolish characters, like Mr. Woodhouse and Isabella, who have no real evil in them, compose much of the comedy in Austen. We are also introduced to others’ favorable impressions of Jane Fairfax in contrast to Emma’s perception of Jane as irritating and dull.
Mr. Woodhouse recommends that Isabella and Mrs. Mr. John Knightley switch their vacation spot according to Mr. Perry’s advice, and Mr. John Knightley loses his temper at the old man’s nervous interference. Mr. Knightley deftly changes the subject to less passionate matters, and Isabella and Emma gradually soothe away their father’s distress.
Though Mr. Woodhouse has no malice in his fussiness, Mr. John Knightley loses patience at his attempt to impose his preferences on others. Emma, though more sophisticated and sensible than her father, also exhibits this tendency to mold the world to her liking.