Persuasion
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Chapter 21-22
Summary

Chapter 21

Anne visits Mrs. Smith the next morning. She tells her about the concert. Mrs. Smith, however, has already been told about it by a maid. Mrs. smith thinks that Anne must be in love with Mr. Elliot, and she asks Anne if he has ever mentioned her name. Anne assures Mrs. Smith that she has no romantic interest in Mr. Elliot. Mrs. Smith thinks that people must be trying to persuade Anne to marry Mr. Elliot, as it would be appropriate in so many ways.

Mrs. Smith explains to Anne how she knows Mr. Elliot. She describes him as being a man “without a heart or a conscience…a cold-blooded being.” Mr. Elliot had once been a friend of her late husband. She and her husband had helped him when he had financial problems. Mr. Elliot married his wife entirely for financial motives, as he wanted wealth and independence. Mrs. Smith had heard him declare that he would sell his eventual right to the baronetcy for fifty pounds if someone would take it. She lets Anne look at a letter written by Mr. Elliot in which he says he wishes to destroy Kellynch or get as much money for it as possible. After he got married, he pushed Mr. Smith to live in an extravagant way and get into a large amount of debt. In this way, he caused the Smiths to endure financial ruin but he refused to provide any assistance. When Mr. Smith died, Mr. Elliot was the executor of his will. He refused to carry out his duties, thereby causing Mrs. Smith to be burdened with debts and difficulties. Mrs. Smith tells Anne more about Mr. Elliot’s current schemes, which she has been told by servants. Mr. Elliot has changed his attitude towards the baronetcy, and now wants the title above all other things. When he heard the rumor that it was possible that Sir Walter could remarry, he was very angry. He knew that if Sir Walter were to have a son, that son would be the heir to the title and estate. Mr. Elliot came to Bath specifically to try to ruin any chance that Sir Walter could ever marry Mrs. Clay. Upon meeting Anne, he developed the additional plan of marrying her and making his position even safer. He had intended for the marriage contract to have the provision that Sir Walter never marry again.

Anne is disappointed and upset by what she learns about Mr. Elliot. She now knows how manipulative and cunning he really is, and she is happy to possess this new information so that she can protect her family. She knows she must inform Lady Russel of everything she has heard very quickly.

Chapter 22

Mr. Elliot attempts to entertain and flatter Anne that evening, but she is not at all receptive. He says that he will be away from Bath for a few days and will be back on Saturday.

Anne plans to go to see Lady Russell the next morning, but Charles and Mary Musgrave suddenly arrive for a surprise visit. She welcomes them warmly. Mary provides news of the Musgrove family, who it seems has also come to Bath. Mrs. Musgrove, Charles, Mary, Henrietta, and Captain Harville are all in the city. Henrietta has come to Bath to buy wedding clothes. She is soon to marry Charles Hayter. Anne thinks it must be wonderful to have such caring parents who are more concerned with their children’s happiness than just propriety and appearances.

Anne visits the Musgroves at their accommodations, and she finds herself again enjoying being around them. While she is there, Mary happens to peer out of a window and see Mr. Elliot speaking to Mrs. Clay outside. Anne confirms that it is indeed them.

Charles and Mary argue about that evening’s plans. Charles has already booked a box for them to enjoy a play, but Mary wants them to attend Sir Walter’s evening party. She is eager for an introduction to the Dalrymples and Mr. Elliot. Anne communicates that she would vastly prefer to see a play than be around Mr. Elliot, and the Captain seems to notice this. Mary and Charles finally agree to go to the evening party.

Elizabeth and Sir Walter briefly visit to invite all the Musgroves to the party, as well. Captain Wentworth is also invited.

Analysis

Anne discovers Mr. Elliot’s true character and motivations in these chapters. Mrs. Smith is the person to tell Anne about Mr. Elliot’s cold-hearted behavior and social ambition. Anne knows that it was her good character and determination to continue being friends with Mrs. Smith that made her able to learn this information. This further reinforces the imperative that friendship must be held higher than social appearances. We see Austen using dramatic irony to make a certain statement about social justice. We see the impoverished and disabled Mrs. Smith being able to bring down the plans of wealthy Mr. Elliot.

Austen’s views on social ambition and its rules and limitations are clear in these passages. This novel is critical of the idea that an aristocratic title alone is enough to claim distinction through its portrayal of Sir Walter and Elizabeth. It also strongly condemns Mr. Elliot’s decision to climb the social ladder. There are distinct rules to social mobility that the author feels must be followed. Austen concedes that prudence requires fortune and birth to be considered in the choice of a marriage partner. She also feels that it is acceptable, albeit sometimes humiliating, to enjoy the company of social superiors. However, it is clearly completely unacceptable to manipulate and lie in order to get ahead. For example, Mr. Elliot is wrong in feigning emotion and manipulating Anne and others in order to keep his future title secure. Anne is unable to forgive the cruel way in which he treated Mrs. Smith. Mr. Elliot has also proven himself unworthy of being a baronet by his previous behaviour towards the Elliot family.

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