Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston discuss the friendship developing between Emma and Harriet. Mr. Knightley believes that Harriet’s admiration and ignorance will increase Emma’s vanity and self-assuredness, while Emma’s refinement will render Harriet just polished enough to feel uncomfortable with her own circumstances and society.
Mr. Knightley continues to reveal his ability to both care for and critique Emma. He provides a counterpoint to Emma’s own perspective, and the narrative and other characters affirm his good judgment and reliability.
Mrs. Weston disagrees. She believes that Harriet will provide the companionship that Emma currently lacks, and that Emma will indeed educate Harriet in books and taste.
The good-natured Mrs. Weston can find no fault in Emma's friendships, and, like Emma’s father, she adopts Emma’s own perspective.
In the course of their conversation, Mr. Knightley also observes that Emma has been spoiled by being the cleverest in her family, as well as the mistress of the house from an early age. Mrs. Weston, in her turn, remarks on her beauty, which Mr. Knightley agrees he can find no fault with.
Mr. Knightley confirms the effect of Emma’s upbringing and her adoring governess in spoiling Emma. The only dimension of Emma that Mr. Knightley finds flawless is her physical beauty.
Mrs. Weston and Mr. Knightley amiably agree to disagree on the subject of Emma and Harriet, and Mr. Knightley agrees to refrain from spreading his objections to Harriet and Emma’s friendship.
Though Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston both desire the best for Emma, they possess different views of what she needs to develop as a person.
The two muse on what will become of Emma. Mr. Knightley believes that it will do Emma good to be in love, and “in some doubt of a return.” Both, however, believe that it is unlikely Emma will become attached to anyone as she rarely leaves her home, and her marriage would present great difficulties to her father.
Just as Emma feels no lack in her life of influential and privileged singleness, neither Mr. Knightley nor Mrs. Weston foresee the independent and self-assured Emma falling in love with anyone in the neighborhood.