Until she is threatened by his loss, Emma never knew how important it was for her to be first in Mr. Knightley’s affection and regard. She realizes that she has taken his attentions for granted, which she now feels were undeserved in the first place. In spite of her new revelations, Emma feels she cannot marry because of her duty to her father.
Mr. Knightley, the only one who criticizes her, is again the impetus for her self-improvement. Emma has experienced few real misfortunes in her life, and it is not until she is faced with the loss of the man she loves that she learns the most about her heart.
Emma feels certain that she would be happy if only Mr. Knightley would remain single all his life, and they could preserve their special friendship. She resolves to carefully observe Harriet and Mr. Knightley in the future.
Emma’s wishes that Mr. Knightley not marry at all remain rather selfish, motivated as they are by her own emotional investment in his affairs. At the same time, it is an un-acted upon wish, marking a change in Emma, who previously would have tried to make the world fit with how she wanted it to be.
Mrs. Weston arrives at Hartfield, having just visited Jane. She relates that Jane has suffered greatly during the concealment of her engagement, and she repents allowing her affection to overpower her judgment in relation to Emma. Jane also expressed gratitude towards Emma for the kindness she displayed during her illness.
Jane’s reserve and coldness towards Emma is finally rendered fully sympathetic and comprehensible—Emma unknowingly caused Jane emotional harm. Jane also displays a generosity and fairness in recognizing Emma’s kindness towards her.
Emma reflects with remorse that her behavior with Frank must have caused Jane considerable distress. As a gloomy evening sets in, she considers what a loss Mr. Knightley’s marriage would cause to Hartfield. Her only consolation is in the hope that all of these desolate events will leave her more rational, self-aware, and a better person.
That Emma anticipates consolation in the hope that, even if she is to lose Mr. Knightley forever, she will at least grow from her mistakes reveals the lasting, good, and humbling impact of Mr. Knightley on Emma’s heart.