Emma Woodhouse is bright, beautiful, and rich; she is also snobbish and judgmental, and she can be cruel, with a tendency to interfere in other people's lives. The novel chronicles Emma's attempts to make a match between a hapless vicar who is, in fact, enamored of Emma herself, and her friend Harriet, a poor and simple young woman in love with a farmer. Unlike many of Austen's heroines, Emma is possessed of very little good sense; her absurd machinations complicate the lives of everyone involved--and, needless to say, get nowhere. Emma, however, learns from her mistakes and gains some badly needed insight into herself as she discovers her feelings for the older, steady, aristocratic Mr. Knightley. The novel moves toward a not unexpected but perfectly satisfying conclusion, and in the process introduces Austen's usual cast of amusing, pretentious, hypocritical, and/or dim-witted characters, including the appalling, nouveau riche Mrs. Elton, and Emma's widowed father, one of the most insufferable (and delightful) neurotics in literature.