Persuasion
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Chapter 19-20
Summary

Chapter 19

Anne sees Captain Wentworth the day after he arrives in Bath. She is walking with Mrs. Clay, Elizabeth, and Mr. Elliot when it begins raining. Mr. Elliot requests that Lady Dalrymple bring the ladies home in her carriage. While Lady Dalrymple agrees, there is room only for two of them. As a consequence, Anne opts to walk home with Mr. Elliot. They come across Captain Wentworth while they are in a store waiting for Lady Dalrymple’s carriage to arrive at the door.

Once Captain Wentworth recovers from his shock of seeing her, he speaks to Anne. They talk about the Musgroves. Elizabeth feels that Captain Wentworth is beneath her and so will not acknowledge her, and this hurts Anne. Mrs. Clay and Elizabeth leave and get into the carriage. On discovering that there isn’t enough room for Anne, Captain Wentworth offers her his umbrella and escort. However, Mr. Elliot immediately returns and takes Anne by the arm to bring her out of the store. The people who are with the Captain think that there is an attachment between Anne and Mr. Elliot. The following morning, Anne is walking with Lady Russell when Captain Wentworth is seen on the other side of the street. Although Anne knows that Lady Russell must have seen him, she will say nothing about it.

While Anne is rather tired of all the private parties she is obliged to attend, she is looking forward to a concert that she will be attending for the benefit of a friend of Lady Dalrymple. It is certain that Captain Wentworth will be at this event. She mentions the upcoming concert to Mrs. Smith, and the latter makes a mysterious remark about how she imagines that she will not have the pleasure of Anne’s visits for much longer.

Chapter 20

The Elliot family attends the concert. All the most important people in Bath are there. Captain Wentworth comes in, and Anne is happy when Elizabeth and her father acknowledge him. The Captain talks to Anne. He praises her level-headedness and communicates his good wishes for Captain Benwick and Louisa. He does say that he harbors some doubts about the marriage, as Louisa doesn’t have the intellect that would best suit a wife for Benwick. He is surprised at Benwick’s ability to so quickly recover from the death of Fanny Harville, his first love.

Anne is happy about her conversation with the Captain. During the concert, however, she obliged to sit next to Mr. Elliot. He asks her to translate the Italian in the concert program. He gives her many compliments, implying that he had been told about her fine character before he ever met her. He also says he hopes that her name never changes. Mr. Elliot is strongly implying that he would like to marry her himself. While Anne is surprised, her mind is instead preoccupied with Captain Wentworth. She wants to get near enough to him again to speak with him. He appears distant, however, and indicates no wish to approach her.

Anne changes her seat during the intermission, bringing herself closer to Captain Wentworth. She eventually finds herself close enough to say something to the Captain, but Mr. Elliot interrupts her again and asks for more help with the Italian in the program. She is forced by the demands of politeness to assist him. When she is done, Captain Wentworth quickly comes up to Anne, announcing that he is leaving. She strongly urges him to stay, but he will not. Anne realizes that the Captain is jealous of Mr. Elliot.

Analysis

We see bad timing and misunderstandings get in the way of Anne’s relationship with Captain Wentworth. While both seek to discover the feelings of the other, they are made confused by the presence of Mr. Elliot, a man with his own motives. This section of the novel moves toward the climax. Captain Wentworth is now free of any attachment to Louisa, and he and Anne find themselves in the same place at the same moment in time. They both hope for a furtherance of their attachment, but they are both uncertain whether there will be obstacles from the Anne’s father and sister or Mr. Elliot that will get in the way. These chapters contain a great deal of awkwardness and confusion that contribute to a larger narrative purpose. They intensify the tension that brings us to the novel’s climax.

There is a gradual release of the knowledge that Anne and Captain Wentworth are in love. While readers are aware of the characters’ feelings, it is in line with Austen’s strong focus on the value of civility that characters do not express their emotions in a passionate way. The characters’ incredible restraint may be admirable but is frustrating for many readers. Austen seems to perceive public declarations of love as being potentially self-absorbed and improper. The Captain’s love is obliged to become evident in a gradual and prudent way.

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