Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen's most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.
Emma is the typical rich and clever girl whose overconfidence in her own understanding of people and well-meaning desire to manipulate the lives of her social inferiors as well as some of her equals involve her in a number of delusions. The shocks and later disappointments she receives help her to achieve a greater degree of self-knowledge than she possessed before she started on her self-appointed career of reform. The novel sets little traps for Emma's vanity and self-importance and she falls into every one of them. She takes under her protection Harriet Smith, "the natural daughter of somebody", and decides to arrange a suitable marriage for her with a foolish young man who proposes to Emma herself to her disgust and annoyance!