Persuasion
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Chapter 15-16
Summary

Chapter 15

When she arrives in Bath, Anne finds that her father and sister are very happy in their house at Camden Place. While she is sad to be there, she does find that her family is unusually warm in the way they greet her. They are eager to show her the room of the house and the furniture, but they have no interest in hearing any of her stories. Elizabeth and Sir Walter are clearly satisfied with the accommodations and pleasures that they have found in Bath, but Anne is disappointed that her family could be in such a degrading situation and not even realize it.

They assure Anne of their happiness in the fact that they and Mr. Elliot have renewed their acquaintance. We discover that Mr. Elliot has been visiting them and that they have forgiven him for the decision he made in marrying his first wife, who, although rich, was not well-born. Mr. Elliot’s wife died six months ago, and he is in mourning. Anne guesses that perhaps Mr. Elliot’s real motive in suddenly renewing the acquaintance is an interest in marrying Elizabeth.

The topic of conversation changes to the topic of appearance, with Sir Walter declaring that Bath seems filled with unattractive women. He asks Anne about the state of Mary’s appearance.

Mr. Elliot arrives for a visit. It is clear that he again finds Anne very attractive. He realizes that she is the woman that he saw in Lyme, and he is happy to discover that she is his cousin. He pays a lot of attention to Anne during his visit. Anne finds him to be sensible and well-mannered. Mr. Elliot stays for about an hour. Anne feels that the evening has been considerably better than she could have imagined.

Chapter 16

As Anne has now arrived, Mrs. Clay suggests that perhaps she should leave Bath now but Elizabeth and Sir Walter insist that she stays. This causes Anne to worry even more that her father might be attached to Mrs. Clay. It still does not seem that Elizabeth thinks that this is at all possible. Lady Russell is annoyed by the situation, and she is vexed at the thought that Mrs. Clay could ever have any precedence over Anne in the Elliot household.

Lady Russell finds Mr. Elliot charming and sensible. She believes that he is all that he should be and is pleasant, moderate, and correct in all of his opinions. She does not suspect what his real motives for reconnecting with the family might be. Anne believes that Mr. Elliot hopes to court Elizabeth. She comes to understand that there will be times that she will disagree with Lady Russell.

It is soon understood that Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret have recently arrived in Bath. These are estranged cousins of the Elliot family, and Lady Dalrymple is nobility. It is her status that makes Sir Walter so eager about the possibility of renewing the family’s acquaintance with her. He knows that being associated with her will allow him to move in Bath’s best social circles. Anne is disappointed by the fact that Sir Walter and Elizabeth seem to be in awe of Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret, thinking they should have more pride. Sir Walter sends a letter of apology to the Dalrymples, and he is forgiven. Anne is embarrassed by the fact that her family talks constantly of these relatives to everyone. She believes that Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret are uninteresting and unaccomplished, and she is not very interested in meeting them.

When talking with Mr. Elliot, Anne discovers that he agrees with Sir Walter’s belief that there would be great advantage in becoming reacquainted with Lady Dalrymple. He asserts that one’s social circle is especially important in a small place like Bath. Mr. Elliot also hints that he is concerned about Sir Walter’s connection to Mrs. Clay. He believes that there is danger in this potential attachment and that he is eager to find ways to draw Sir Walter’s attention away from her.

Analysis

We are introduced to the concept of place. Place can mean an individual’s position both geographically and in the social structure. These two questions are connected. Mr. Elliot argues that while if the Elliots were in London, their “present, quiet style of living” might make them relatively insignificant, in Bath they have the ability to socialize within prominent circles. Anne is offended by the idea that one’s location can determine one’s social worth. There is more nuance and complexity in her understanding of social standing. She feels that value comes not only from birth and wealth but also manners, accomplishments, and interests. The Elliot family is thought to be the very best in Somersetshire, while in Bath, they are beneath the Dalrymples. Anne sees the Dalrymples as uninteresting and unaccomplished, and she takes offence by the idea that they could be considered above her.

Anne is very conscious of class. This is one reason why she is so horrified at the idea of having Mrs. Clay as a step-mother. Anne isn’t used to being seen as beneath anyone. In certain ways, she has even more pride than her sister and father. She is distressed by the idea that a respected, landed family like the Elliots should have to rent rooms in a city while it rents its ancestral home out to others. Anne dislikes how little her sister and father appear to be distressed by this. Austen apparently believes that it can be a positive thing to have a reasonable amount of pride, as long as it has its basis in true merit rather than only appearances.

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