Persuasion
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Chapter 23-24
Summary

Chapter 23

The following morning, Anne sets off to spend the day with Mrs. Croft, Captain Wentworth, Captain Harville, and the Musgroves. The party is in a parlor room, and Anne is beside the window, talking to Captain Harville. Captain Wentworth is at a desk nearby, writing a letter. Anne and Captain Harville have a conversation on the topic of the constancy of love. Anne asserts that women are more faithful and constant than men, clinging to their attachments even “when existence or when hope is gone.” Captain Harville disagrees with this statement, saying that men remember the women they have loved long after they have gone. Captain Wentworth listens to this conversation.

After finishing his letter, Captain Wentworth gives Anne a note. He then leaves with Captain Harville, to mail the letter. When Anne reads Captain Wentworth’s note, she finds that it declares his love and devotion to her. She is understandably overwhelmed with emotion and tells the others that she is feeling unwell and must go home right away. She would rather walk alone, but Charles says that he wishes to come with her. When they are in the street, they come upon Captain Wentworth. Charles asks if he could bring Anne the remainder of the way home.

Anne and Captain Wentworth are now alone and able to say what they wish. Anne declares to the Captain how devotedly she has loved him since he first proposed years ago. The two are only aware of one another, ignoring the presence of other people in the streets. They are both “exquisitely happy.” Captain Wentworth says that Anne is the only woman he has ever loved. When his flirting with Louisa made people think that he would marry that young lady, he was terrified. He was very pleased when he received news that she was to marry Captain Benwick.

Captain Wentworth explains his feelings at the concert. He says it was very painful to realize the everyone around her must have intended to persuade her to marry Mr. Elliot. Anne says that she yielded to what she thought was her duty eight years earlier. She explains that in “marrying a man indifferent to [her]…all duty would be violated.”

At the Elliots’ card party that evening, Anne speaks to the Captain again. She explains that Lady Russel gave her the bad advice to reject him eight years earlier, but that she thinks that she was correct to follow that advice. She declares that “a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman’s portion.” Captain Wentworth feels that it is his own fault that they were separated for so long. Now knowing that she would have accepted, he wishes that he had proposed again six years ago. He admits that it was his pride that stood in the way. He thinks that he will be happier than he deserves when he does finally marry her.

Chapter 24

The narrator provides a complete summary in this chapter. The engagement of Anne and Captain Wentworth is announced. Sir Walter and Elizabeth do not object. As Captain Wentworth is now a man with a very large fortune, and so he is now believed worthy of the daughter of a baronet so deeply in debt. While Lady Russell is upset at first, she wants Anne to be happy and so she reconciles herself to the marriage. We are told that she and Captain Wentworth will one day get along well.

Mr. Elliot feels shock at the announcement, and he leaves Bath. It appears that Elizabeth has no prospect of a man of any consequence for a future husband. Mrs. Clay departs from Bath, and there is a rumor that she is living under Mr. Elliot’s protection. Mr. Elliot has made this arrangement to ruin her reputation so that she can never marry Sir Walter. The narrator implies that she might one day be Mr. Elliot’s wife.

Anne stays close friends with Mrs. Smith, and Captain Wentworth helps the lady retrieve some of her late husband’s money.

Anne is wonderfully happy with Captain Wentworth. The novel ends with praise of the Navy, with the narrator stating that it is a profession that “if possible, [is] more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.”

Analysis

Persuasion is similar to many other Jane Austen novels in that it ends with a happy marriage. Anne and Captain Wentworth declare their continued love for one another and become engaged. Captain Wentworth now has a larger fortune than Sir Walter, and he is certainly seem as worthy of Anne’s hand. It has been his career in the Navy that has allowed him to accumulate such a large fortune and move up the social ladder. The potential of social mobility that the Navy provides is what is referred to in the novel’s closing line, when the narrator mentions the Navy’s “domestic virtue.” Captain Wentworth’s position in the Navy is what eventually allows him to be worthy of Anne.

Captain Wentworth is not the only character who experiences social mobility in this novel. The Elliot family goes through a certain amount of downward social mobility, with Sir Walter being humbled by his debt. The Elliots once lived in grandeur at Kellynch but now they rent their accommodations in Bath and live much more modestly. While it’s true that Sir Walter still has his title, wealth is important and he is aware of this.

Anne believes that she was right in her decision to let herself be persuaded eight years earlier. This means that she accepts a traditional approach to the question of duty: she was obliged to go along with her family’s advice and prefer a more appropriate match. In Anne’s view, marriage involves the self being subordinated to the social order. Anne is able to marry Captain Wentworth eight years later not because she has changed her ideas about duty but rather because the Captain has been able to avail himself of the social mobility provided by a career in the Navy.

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