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Persuasion

Jane Austen

Chapters 5–6

Chapters 3–4

Chapters 7–8

Summary

Chapter 5

Admiral and Mrs. Croft come to see Kellynch. They approve of the house, grounds, and furniture, and hit it off very well with Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Sir Walter is flattered and gratified by their polished behavior and good manners. He thinks the Admiral one of the "best-looking sailors he has ever met." It is formally approved that the Crofts will rent Kellynch. Sir Walter and Elizabeth plan to take Mrs. Clay with them to Bath as an assistant and companion. Both Anne and Lady Russell feel the imprudence of this arrangement. Though Mrs. Clay has freckles and a projecting tooth, she is not altogether bad-looking and Anne suspects that her mild manners may allow her to form an intimacy with Sir Walter which would be neither appropriate nor desirable for the Elliot family. In an effort to warn Elizabeth of this danger, Anne suggests the impropriety of bringing Mrs. Clay to Bath. But Elizabeth rejects Anne's suggestion, confident that Mrs. Clay is not pretty enough for their father to ever consider her a potential wife.

Claiming that she is unwell, Mary requests that Anne come to stay with her for a few weeks at Uppercross Cottage, rather than immediately joining Sir Walter and Elizabeth at Bath. Anne, happy to be of some use and grateful to stay in Somersetshire a while longer, gladly agrees to go to Mary. She finds her sister in a very bad mood, lying on a couch and complaining that she has been alone all morning; Charles is out shooting and her two small sons are unmanageable. Mary, we are told, was never as pretty as either of her two sisters; she has a trying nature and easily falls into self-pity when others fail to pay her attention. Anne finally manages to cheer her up enough that she could get off the sofa and go with Anne to visit the Musgroves as the Great House.

At the Great House, Austen introduces us to the Musgroves, a happy family, "friendly and hospitable, not much educated and not at all elegant." The family consists of the mother and father, the three adult children: Charles (Mary's husband), Henrietta, and Louisa, who have just returned from school at Exeter, and younger children who are unnamed. Anne enjoys the Musgrove household for its merriness and comfort. She encourages the Miss Musgrove to join her and Mary for a walk.

Chapter 6

At Uppercross, Anne notices the very different topics that occupy the Musgroves' attention. Little concerned with discussing appearances and social standing, the Musgrove family occupies itself with hunting, newspapers, house-keeping, dress, dancing, and music. She finds their presence a welcome change from the company of her father and Elizabeth.

Austen describes the marriage of Charles and Mary Musgrove as reasonably happy. Charles is good-natured enough to put up with Mary's moods, though he wastes his time on sport. Charles is much better with the children, but Mary's interference makes them unmanageable. Anne gets along tolerably with the whole family, and the young boys respect her much more than their mother.

The Musgrove family is quite pleased to have Anne visiting. While Anne is there, Mary is much happier to have a constant companion. Periodically, both Charles Musgrove and his parents entreat Anne to use her influence upon her sister to make changes. They would like Mary to better manage her children and her home, and Anne is constantly made a middle party to small complaints.

Though Anne is happy at Uppercross, it bothers her deeply that the Crofts have now moved into Kellynch. She thinks sadly of her home being inhabited by other people. She and Mary go to pay a visit to the Crofts. The Crofts are amiable people, and Mrs. Croft has a weather-beaten complexion from spending much time at sea with her husband. Mrs. Croft mentions that her other brother, Mr. Wentworth is married, and Anne briefly fears that it is her Captain Wentworth to which Mrs. Croft refers. But Captain Wentworth is soon expected to be visiting. This news excites and unnerves Anne.

The name of Captain Wentworth sparks a recollection in Mrs. Musgrove. She remembers that her son Dick served under Captain Wentworth in the Navy and wrote of him fondly. Dick was a "troublesome, hopeless" son who had been sent to sea at the age of twenty because he was unmanageable on land. Though his family had never been very attached to him, Dick's death affected his mother deeply. To hear Captain Wentworth's name, a man whom her son respected and described as "dashing," made Mrs. Musgrove remember her son and grieve his loss again.

Analysis

Austen continues to explore the complex English class system. Comparing her own household to that of the Musgroves allows Anne to make important observations about class divisions in England. Although the Musgroves are a wealthy, landowning family, second in the parish only to the Elliots, they are not titled. They do not have as high birth and family connections as the Elliots do. Though the Elliots are perfectly happy to interact and even to intermarry with them, there are distinct differences in their ways of life. Anne notices that the Musgroves discuss sport, dress, and daily activities; they are not nearly as concerned with appearances, social standing, and the affairs of other families. This difference is at first refreshing to Anne, but at the same time, slightly disconcerting. The narrator describes the Musgroves as "not much educated and not at all elegant." Anne enjoys the Musgroves' company, but does not wish to emulate them; her taste seeks more education and more elegance. Though Anne finds both of these qualities in her own family, she dislikes their close-minded elitism.

These chapters touch upon the social positions of women within the class system. In the late nineteenth-century, a woman's social rank was extremely tenuous. Women were unique in the class society for their ability to rise or fall in social station easily. After marriage, a woman's rank was entirely dependent upon her husband's birth and social standing. In contrast, although a man might increase his fortune, he could not improve his rank by marrying a well-born woman; his wife would only fall to his level. Choosing a marriage partner well, then, was of the utmost importance for a woman. Her friends and family would seek to guide her in finding the very best man available.

In these chapters, the theme of social mobility for women is illustrated by the "dangerous" prospect of a match between Mrs. Clay and Sir Walter. Anne thinks taking Mrs. Clay to Bath is entirely imprudent and unwise, and she considers it her duty to warn Elizabeth that such a match might be a possibility. The "danger" of such a marriage is twofold. First, a marriage like this is a way for a woman of obscure birth to be brought into "undue distinction" and though Anne does not specifically say this, she is not liberal enough in her views to avoid being offended by such a presumptuous move on Mrs. Clay's part. Second, such a marriage would turn Mrs. Clay into Lady Elliot, thereby allowing her to take precedence over both Elizabeth and Anne at family functions. When the narrator refers to the specific "danger" to Elizabeth, she means that if a marriage were to happen, Elizabeth would be ousted from her position as first lady of Kellynch Hall.

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