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Persuasion

Jane Austen

Chapters 19–20

Chapters 17–18

Chapters 21–22

Summary

Chapter 19

Captain Wentworth arrives in Bath and Anne sees him the very next day when she is out walking. She is with Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay, and Mr. Elliot in town when it starts to rain. Mr. Elliot asks Lady Dalrymple if she will escort the ladies home in her carriage. Lady Dalrymple agrees but since she only has room for two of them, Anne decides to walk home with Mr. Elliot. They meet Captain Wentworth while in a store waiting for Lady Dalrymple's carriage.

Captain Wentworth is shocked to see her. He speaks to Anne and they talk of the Musgroves. Elizabeth would not acknowledge Captain Wentworth, as she thought him beneath her; this pains Anne. Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay leave to enter the carriage. On finding that there is no room for Anne, Captain Wentworth offers her his services and his umbrella. But Mr. Elliot at that moment returns to take Anne by the arm and whisk her out of the store. The people who accompany Captain Wentworth guess that there is something between Mr. Elliot and Anne.

The next morning, Anne is walking with Lady Russell when they see Captain Wentworth on the opposite side of the street. Though she knows that Lady Russell must see him, she makes no comment.

Anne grows tired of the private parties she must always attend with her family's friends, but she looks forward to an upcoming concert for the benefit of one of Lady Dalrymple's friends. Captain Wentworth is sure to be at this concert. She tells Mrs. Smith about the upcoming concert and Mrs. Smith makes a cryptic remark that she thinks she may not have many more visits from Anne.

Chapter 20

The Elliot family goes to the concert, which all the important people in Bath will attend. Captain Wentworth enters, and Anne is pleased that her father and Elizabeth choose to acknowledge him. Wentworth stops to talk with Anne, compliments her on her level-headedness in Lyme, and expresses his good wishes for Louisa and Captain Benwick. He also tells Anne that he has some doubts about their marriage, Louisa being not nearly intellectual enough for Benwick. He is surprised that Benwick has been able to get over the death of his first love, Fanny Harville, so quickly.

Anne is very happy after her conversation with Captain Wentworth, but she is unable to sit near him during the concert. Instead, she sits next to Mr. Elliot and is asked by him to translate the Italian in their program. He compliments her excessively, hints that he was told of her fine character before he met her, and expresses his hope that her name may never change. He implies a marriage between himself and Anne. Although she is surprised, Anne is thinking instead of Captain Wentworth and how to get near enough to talk to him again. He is distant and will not come over to talk with her.

During the intermission, Anne changes seats, moving herself away from Mr. Elliot and closer to Captain Wentworth. She finally gets close enough to speak to him when Mr. Elliot once again interrupts and asks her to help him with a translation of Italian. Politeness forces her to go with him. After she is done, Captain Wentworth rushes up to Anne to bid her goodnight and let her know that he is leaving the concert. She implores him to stay, but he refuses. Anne recognizes that Captain Wentworth must be jealous of Mr. Elliot.

Analysis

In these chapters, misunderstanding and bad timing thwart the relationship between Anne and Captain Wentworth. Although both seek to ascertain the feelings and affections of the other, they are confused by the appearance of a third party, Mr. Elliot, who has his own personal motives. This part of the novel leads toward climax. Captain Wentworth is now free of all attachments, and both he and Anne are at the same place at the same time. Though they seek the same goal, they are uncertain whether obstacles such as Anne's family or Mr. Elliot will keep them from reaching happiness. The confusion and awkwardness that fill these chapters serve a larger narrative purpose; they heighten the tension leading up to the climax of the novel.

The description of the relationship By keeping the feelings between The knowledge that Captain Wentworth and Anne are in love with each other must be released slowly. Though the reader knows what both characters are feeling, it is a testament to Austen's high value on civility that she does not make her characters passionately express their feelings. The tension is deep, but the characters' restraint of emotion is an admirable, if frustrating quality. Austen does not trust unbridled passion; she sees something improper and self-absorbed in public declarations of love. Captain Wentworth's passion must unfold gradually and with prudence, in a manner in accordance with social custom, if it is to be trusted and respected.

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