Full of pain and humiliation, Emma miserably reflects on the situation with Mr. Elton. In addition to her mortification at her mistake, she is thrown into confusion about how to re-evaluate the events of the previous weeks. However, she feels worst about the blow to Harriet, whose feelings she knows she encouraged towards Mr. Elton. Emma reflects that she would gladly have suffered greater humiliation and discomfort if she could only lessen the hurt for Harriet.
The vast majority of the chapter is devoted to Emma’s self-reflection and remorse, a remarkable turning point for the proud protagonist. Forced to realize her error, we see more selfless thoughts developing: she would gladly endure a greater blow to her pride if she could lessen Harriet’s potential heartbreak, which she feelingly takes responsibility for.
Emma feels little sympathy for Mr. Elton, whose showy displays of love she believes to be insincere. He sinks in her opinion as a man conceited, insensitive, and ambitious; she is sure that he has no real love for her, and his interest is only in marrying a wealthy heiress. She is doubly provoked that he is so sensible to the gradations of rank below him regarding Harriet, and so blind to those above as to believe him equal to Emma, whose wealth, family, and talents are greatly superior.
Emma’s assessment of Mr. Elton does her less credit, as she is most offended by his presumption—both in believing her friend so below him, but also in believing him to be Emma's equal. Her ready dismissal of his feelings may be justified, as she realizes his arrogance and affectation, but she is at least in part responsible for his mistaken perception.
However, Emma pauses to reflect on her own responsibility for Mr. Elton’s mistake. She reflects that her own behavior has been so pleasant and attentive to Mr. Elton for Harriet’s sake that she can understand his misperception. She admits that if she has so misinterpreted him, she can hardly wonder that he, blinded by self-interest, has also mistaken her.
Emma reveals her ability to grow, as she possesses the intention and integrity to attempt a fair evaluation of herself and others. Though she, like Mr. Elton, is full of her own claims, she acknowledges that their misperceptions have both resulted from self-interest.
Emma concludes that she has been assuming and foolish in her attempt to make matches, “making light of what ought to be serious.” Ashamed, she resolves to never match make again—though she catches herself thinking up another suitor for Harriet a moment later.