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Persuasion

Jane Austen

Chapters 23–24

Chapters 21–22

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Chapter 23

The next morning, Anne leaves to join the Musgroves, Captain Harville, Captain Wentworth, and Mrs. Croft for the day. They are in a parlor room, and Anne talks to Captain Harville by the window. Captain Wentworth is not far off, and is writing a letter. Anne and Captain Harville discuss the constancy of love. Anne argues that women are the more constant and faithful gender; she says that women love longest, even "when existence or when hope is gone." Captain Harville disagrees; he asserts that men remember their women long after the women have moved on. They agree to disagree. Captain Wentworth overhears the entire conversation.

Having finished his letter, Captain Wentworth slips a note to Anne, and then he and Captain Harville leave to mail the letter. Anne reads Wentworth's note. In it, he declares his constancy and his undying love for her. Anne is overcome with emotion. She exclaims that she is not feeling well and must go home at once. Though she hopes to walk alone, Charles insists on walking with her. In the street, they see Captain Wentworth, and Charles suggests that he accompany Anne the rest of the way home.

Finally alone, Anne tells Captain Wentworth how much she has loved him for this long time. Though people walk the streets around them, they are only conscious of each other. They are 'exquisitely happy' and relieved. Captain Wentworth asserts that he has never loved anyone but Anne. Although he flirted with Louisa, he never meant to be engaged to her. When he found out that others thought him promised to her, he was distraught. He could not have been more pleased when, upon getting better, she chose to marry Captain Benwick.

Captain Wentworth tells Anne how horrible it was to be at the concert, knowing that everyone who had influence over her must persuade her to marry Mr. Elliot. Anne explains that eight years ago, she yielded to duty, but that in "marrying a man indifferent to [her],…all duty would be violated." They part for the afternoon, each overwhelmingly happy.

That night, at the Elliots' card party, Anne talks to Captain Wentworth again. She says that eight years ago, Lady Russell poorly advised her to reject him, but she believes she was right to follow that advice. She reasons that "a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman's portion." Captain Wentworth blames himself for the long years of separation. Learning that she would have said yes, he wishes that he had asked her to marry him again six years ago. He concludes that he was too proud, and in finally marrying her will be happier than he deserves.

Chapter 24

This chapter is a complete summary by the narrator. Anne and Captain Wentworth announce their engagement. Neither Elizabeth nor Sir Walter openly object. With a very large fortune, Captain Wentworth is now worthy to propose to the daughter of an indebted baronet. Lady Russell is initially upset, but her first desire is to see Anne happy, so she eventually gets over her hurt feelings. She and Captain Wentworth grow fond of each other.

Mr. Elliot is shocked and withdraws from Bath. There seems to be no man of any consequence who is a prospective husband for Elizabeth. Mrs. Clay leaves Bath and it is rumored that she is under the protection of Mr. Elliot. He had been making advances to her all along, so that she would not marry Sir Walter. She gives up all hopes of marrying Sir Walter, but the narrator suggests that she may someday be made the wife of Sir William Elliot.

Captain Wentworth helps Mrs. Smith to get some of her husband's money back and she stays a close friend of Anne's.

Anne and Captain Wentworth are utterly happy. The narrator ends with a few sentences on the Navy, a profession "which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance."

Analysis

Like many of Jane Austen's novels, Persuasion ends with a happy marriage. Anne and Captain Wentworth renew their love for each other and announce their engagement. Wentworth, who is now significantly richer than Sir Walter, is considered worthy enough to marry Anne. The Navy has given him the freedom of making a large fortune and of moving up substantially in society. This possibility for social mobility is what the narrator refers to in the closing line of the novel as the Navy's "domestic virtue." His position in the Navy allows Captain Wentworth to be considered deserving of Anne Elliot.

However, Captain Wentworth is not the only character whose social standing has changed. The Elliot family has been humbled by Sir Walter's significant debt. Although they were once an extremely wealthy family with a country estate, the Elliots are forced to rent their house and live more modestly. Although they retain their titles and high birth, wealth is an important factor in gauging social consequence. This fact is not lost on Sir Walter.

Anne concludes that she was right to be persuaded eight years ago. This conclusion implies that she accepts a traditional interpretation of duty; she has an obligation to follow the advice of her family and form an appropriate match. For Anne, marriage is a subordination of the self to the social order. What allows Anne to marry Captain Wentworth eight years later is not that her ideas of duty have changed; it is the social order itself that is altered. The accepted social mobility of Naval officers is what allows Anne and Captain Wentworth to finally find happiness.

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