Much has been written already about the level headed Mr. Knightley. He is the least gallant of all the men in Emma. He is important to the novel because he is the most reliable narrator for the reader, much more so than Emma herself, who isn’t quite consistent in feelings or beliefs. However, Emma takes her toll, even on Mr. Knightley. When Mr. Frank Churchill arrives, Mr. Knightley clearly sees him as competition for Emma. As a result, Mr. Knightley becomes less of himself, eventually leading to the uncharacteristic unplanned proposal to Emma in a garden, which is romantic in nature and also representative of the Romantic literature period itself.
Mr. Knightley is interesting because he acts as mentor and friend to Emma. The romantic nature of their relationship is not obvious to Emma despite her attempts to bring romance to lives of others. This is ironic and adds to idea that Emma really is a terrible matchmaker. It can also be seen as a statement, by Austen, of her dislike of “arranged” or matchmaker marriages because all of the ones Emma plans, not only don’t occur, but usually set into motion a series of unfortunate events. The exception to this would be the marriage of Miss Taylor to Mr. Weston, but we are led to question what kind of role Emma actually plays in this. At her insistence that she brought them together Mr. Knightley says this;
"Success supposes endeavor. Your time has been properly and delicately spent, if you have been endeavoring for the last four years to bring about this marriage. A worthy employment for a young lady's mind! But if, which I rather imagine, your making the match, as you call it, means only your planning it, your saying to yourself one idle day, 'I think it would be a very good thing for Miss Taylor if Mr. Weston were to marry her,' and saying it again to yourself every now and then afterwards,—why do you talk of success? where is your merit?—what are you proud of?—you made a lucky guess; and that is all that can be said." (10)