The first part of the essay, "Secret Love," supports the thesis by reading allegorically an episode from Sense and Sensibility. Miller acknowledges that allegory is rare in Austen, but argues persuasively for the usefulness of such a reading of the Dashwoods' visit to Gray's, the London jewelry shop, where they see Robert Ferrars selecting a toothpick case. Jewelry, pervasive in Austen, is always either given by a relative or lover, in token of union through marriage or common blood. The jeweled case, so fussily selected by the "unheterosexual" Ferrars, does not signify any attachment to marriage or family; it is style for style's sake. The spinster, like the homosexual, does not possess social signification of the sort granted to married men and women. Or as Miller puts it:
Behind the glory of style's willed evacuation of substance lies the ignominy of a subject's hopelessly insufficient social realization, just as behind style's ahistorical impersonality lies the historical impasse of someone whose social representation doubles for social humiliation.
Miller points out that the realism of Austen's works allows no one like Jane Austen to appear in them. There are happy wives and pathetic old maids, but there are no successfully unmarried woman. The second part of the essay "No One Is Alone" argues that Austen's style presupposes and enforces its author's own "under-representability." It looks at the insufficient Neuter of a narrator in Northanger Abbey, and then the accomplished Neuter in Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. In the mature novels, the heroines employ their wit, or style, to court men's attention, and their fall, accompanied by self-lacerations about their excessive wit, is rewarded by getting the man they want, as well as the marriage state, and estate; they become recognized by society as Persons. The plot is saved from cynicism by the heroines' naivete and good faith.
"Austen Style not only knew whereof it spoke, but also spoke without any apparent experiential implication in such knowledge," writes Miller. It is a paradox of divine omniscience, but it is also a paradox of divine melancholy, in which "an impersonal deity unceasingly contemplates the Person that is its own absolutely foregone possibility." In the third and final part of the essay, Miller expands on this divine melancholy by examining the free indirect style in Emma. He finds the eponymous character the most fully realized in Austen's oeuvre. The chapter "Broken Art" also judges Persuasion a failure of Style as constituted in the earlier books, since, there, Style becomes personifiable, idiosyncratic, instead of objective. Sanditon, written when Austen was dying, is read as a crumbling of the Style when wit deteriorates into mere wordplay and alliteration.
Emma allows us to envision the utopia of a double perfection, the perfection of Style matched by that of Person; Sanditon reaches towards the perhaps more feasible state of their double, their simultaneous annihilation.