Emma, our spoilt princess, lives a quiet life with her father, her mother having died when she was but a young child. Her sister has married and moved to London. When Emma was twelve, she had become the mistress of the house. “The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” And so a friend close by and malleable was naturally attractive, to our spoilt princess, socially superior but with time on her hands, adopts the attractive, pleasant and Malleable-Harriet.Emma is financially independent, Harriet is not. Emma has social standing. Harriet, a young woman of mysterious birth has not. Emma has all the social connections while Harriet moves in a comfortable but different world.
Harriet was a pupil at a local boarding school, a school run by a Mrs Goddard. In some ways this school seems more of a modern share house as Harriet is old enough to come and go as she pleases. Harriet is a ‘nobody’; she does not know her true parentage, only that she has a guardian. She has no connections outside her school and is quite the opposite of Emma, who in the little village of Highgrove is definitely a ‘somebody’. Emma is worth 30,000 pounds and despite her youth and gender is seen as someone of consequence. Harriet is so grateful to be noticed by the grand, Miss Emma Woodhouse that she suspends all independence in making decisions and relies on Emma too much. Such a situation lead to a toxic friendship, where the availability of someone allows for a friendship too open to manipulation. Fortunately, as with all things Austen, even this friendship has a happy ending and when finally Harriet comes to her senses and marries Mr Martin, Harriet and Mr Martin are accpeted as visitors to Hartfield.