Persuasion
Jane Austen
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Chapter 7-8
Summary

Chapter 7

Captain Wentworth visit Kellynch to see Mrs. Croft, his sister. Mr. Musgrove calls on him and likes his company very much. He encourages him to come to the Great House at Uppercross. Anne and Mary receive an invitation to come to this visit. Predictably, Anne is very nervous about seeing Captain Wentworth again after such a long period. Anne and Mary are about to go to the Great House when Mary’s eldest son experiences a bad fall. We are told that he has dislocated his collarbone. There is panic and the apothecary is called to examine the child. It is found that while the injury is serious, it is not life-threatening.

Louisa and Henrietta come to the cottage to visit the boy. They tell Anne and Mary that Captain Wentworth has been to the Great House, and they seem like they are pleased and smitten by him. Captain Wentworth will be having dinner at the Great House the following day. The child is in stable condition the next day, and Charles Musgrove (the father) decides that he will go to the Great House to dine and see Captain Wentworth. This upsets Mary, who does not think that Charles should leave her and Anne alone with the child. She doesn’t want him to enjoy himself without her. Anne offers to stay at home with the child so that both Mary and Charles can go to the Great House. Anne can hardly believe that Captain Wentworth is so close-by, less than half a mile away. After enjoying a lovely dinner, Charles and Mary return to Uppercross Cottage. It is clear that they were charmed by the Captain’s good manners and charm.

Captain Wentworth is to go out shooting with Charles the next morning, and he calls on Mary at breakfast. Anne is there, and she and the Captain glance at one another very briefly. This is a very short meeting. Anne wonders how much eight years apart have altered Captain Wentworth’s feelings for her. Mary informs Anne that when Henrietta asked him his opinion of Anne, he said that she “was so altered he should not have known her again.” Anne is very hurt, but she tells herself that it is better to know his feelings for her at once rather than wonder and hope.

The narrator informs readers that while Captain Wentworth has not yet forgiven Anne, he still feels attached to her. He does think that Anne’s decision eight years ago showed a “feebleness of character” that he cannot tolerate. He is now looking for someone pleasing to marry. It can be anyone, he feels, other than Anne Elliot.

Chapter 8

As they are now in the same social circle, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth must dine together  and see one another frequently. They hold back from having much conversation, though, except when required by politeness. Anne ponders how wonderfully well she and the Captain’s temperaments suit one another. She believes that Admiral Croft and Mrs. Croft are the sole couple she thinks could ever be as happy together as she could have been with Captain Wentworth.

At dinner one night, conversation moves to the Navy and Captain Wentworth’s time on the ships. Mrs. Musgrove encourages him to tell her all about what he knew of Dick Musgrove, her late son. He served beneath the Captain on the Laconia. The Captain goes to sit near Mrs. Musgrove, and talks to her in a quiet and comforting way. Captain Wentworth is clearly an admirable man, outspoken in his beliefs, amusing in his conversation, and sensitive in dealing with grief. He says that as he does not feel that a ship is a suitable place for women, he would never be willing to allow a woman on his ship. Mrs. Croft objects to this, saying that she was always perfectly comfortable on her husband’s ship. The Crofts say that Captain Wentworth will sing a different tune once he is married. The Crofts talk about their marriage and experiences. Mrs. Croft says that she and her husband hate being separated, and that she goes with him almost everywhere.

There is dancing after dinner. Anne prefers playing music on the piano instead of dancing herself. Captain Wentworth seems to be enjoying himself. Both Louisa and Henrietta seem to be enamored by him. Anne finds the “cold politeness” she finds in his voice on the rare occasions he speaks to her to be hurtful.

Analysis

Free indirect discourse is a narrative mode frequently used by Austen to indirectly communicate her characters’ thoughts and feelings. This narrative mode is especially prominent in Chapter Seven, which focusses a great deal on how Anne reacts to the reappearance of Captain Wentworth. The narrator states: “She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room!” These sentences let Austen express Anne’s excitement without the character having to say it aloud. This type of narration is very characteristic of Austen’s work.

Motherhood is an important theme in these chapters, and in Austen’s novels generally. In this part of the novel, we witness two different motherly reactions: Mrs. Musgrove’s grief for her late son, Dick, and Mary’s panic at the injury of her young son. While Mary is hysterical in the beginning, she soon loses interest when it seems that her son will recover. She comes to the conclusion that there is no reason for her to miss out on going to dinner, as there is little she can do to help her son at home. It is clear that Mary is one of the “silly parents” we see in Austen’s novels. Her silliness is clear in how she pretends to be as concerned about her children as any other mother, when the reality is that she has little in the way of maternal love or protectiveness. While Mary isn’t a malicious mother, she is a bad one. She makes her own entertainment a higher priority than the well-being of her child.

Captain Wentworth coming to dine with the family reminds Mrs. Musgrove of her late son. She hopes to hear about her son from the Captain. While she’s not hysterical, she clearly feels great sadness and regret over what happened to her boy. Mrs. Musgrove, unlike Mary, is sensible. She is not a “silly parent.” Giving Captain Wentworth encouragement to talk about Dick shows that her son must have given her comfort. Both of these passages in the novel are examples of Austen’s observation of the different roles people play in society, and how individuals fulfill those roles.

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