Captain Wentworth arrives at Kellynch to visit his sister, Mrs. Croft. Mr. Musgrove goes to call on him and decides he likes the Captain very much. He invites Captain Wentworth to the Great House at Uppercross, and Mary and Anne are invited to join them in the visit. Anne is quite nervous at the prospect of seeing Captain Wentworth again after such a long time. The two sisters are on their way to the Great House when Mary's oldest son has a bad fall and seriously dislocates his collarbone. Everyone is in distress and they call for the apothecary to come examine the boy. They find that his injury is not life-threatening.
Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove come to visit the child. They bring news that Captain Wentworth has been to their house; they both appear absolutely smitten and pleased by him. It is announced that he will have dinner the following day at the Great House. The next day, the boy is in stable condition and Charles Musgrove (the boy's father) announces his intention to dine with his parents and Captain Wentworth. Mary is upset that Charles would leave her alone at home with Anne and the child. She is mostly angered by the idea that her husband may enjoy himself while she is stuck at home. Anne settles the matter by offering to stay home with the boy while Mary goes to the dinner with her husband. Though Anne consoles herself that she will be very useful to the sick child, she cannot believe that Captain Wentworth is less than half a mile away. That evening, Charles and Mary return after a lovely dinner. Everyone is charmed by the humor and good manners of the Captain.
The next morning, Captain Wentworth comes to call on Mary at breakfast before he and Charles go out shooting. Anne and the Captain glance at each other briefly, but it is a short meeting. Anne wonders how eight years have changed the Captain's feelings for her. Mary tells Anne that Henrietta asked the Captain what he thought of Anne and he responded that Anne "was so altered he should not have known her again." Anne is understandably hurt by this remark, but she reasons that it is better to know his feelings for her, whatever they may be.
The narrator tells the reader that Captain Wentworth has not forgiven Anne. He was very attached to her, and he feels that her actions eight years ago show a "feebleness of character" that he cannot endure. Now he is on the hunt for a pleasing woman to marry; anyone, he thinks, except Anne Elliot.
Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are now in the same social circle and must repeatedly dine together. They refrain from having any conversation, however, except what politeness necessitates. Anne thinks about how their temperaments are perfectly suited to each other. She thinks that Admiral and Mrs. Croft are the only couple she knows that could be nearly as attached and happy as she and Captain Wentworth once had the chance of being.
The dinner conversation turns to the Navy and to Captain Wentworth's experiences on the ships. Mrs. Musgrove implores him to tell her what he knows of her late son, Dick Musgrove, who served beneath him on the Laconia. Captain Wentworth moves to sit next to Mrs. Musgrove and talk to her, comfortingly, about her son.
Captain Wentworth is sensitive in dealing with Mrs. Musgrove, amusing at dinner, and outspoken in his beliefs. He admits that he would never willingly let women aboard his ship, as he thinks it is not a suitable place for them. Mrs. Croft disagrees, and asserts her feeling that she has always been perfectly comfortable on board her husband's ship. The Crofts joke that when Frederick Wentworth is married, he will sing a different tune. The Crofts discuss their marriage. Mrs. Croft travels with her husband almost everywhere and cannot bear to be separated from him.
At the end of the evening there is dancing, and Anne prefers to play music for them all night. Captain Wentworth seems to be having a terrific time. All the young ladies, including both Miss Musgroves are enamored by him. Although he rarely addresses her, Anne is hurt by the "cold politeness" in his voice.
Austen uses the narrative mode of free indirect discourse to indirectly convey the thoughts and feelings of her characters. In Chapter Seven, which concentrates on Anne's reaction to Captain Wentworth's reappearance, the narrative mode is especially apparent. Austen writes: "She had seen him. They had met. They had been once more in the same room!" Such a series of sentences allows Austen to express the excitement of her protagonist without directly forcing the narrator to declare it. This mode of narration is a literary technique characteristic of Austen.
These chapters address the issue of motherhood, another frequent theme in Austen's novels. We see two very different motherly reactions in these passages, that of Mary for her young son who is hurt, and that of Mrs. Musgrove for her late son, Dick. Mary, though initially hysterical at the thought of her boy being seriously injured, soon gets over her hysteria and loses interest when she realizes he will most likely be all right. She reasons that she may as well go out to dinner, since she can be of little use to her son at home. Mary is one of Austen's "silly parents." She is silly because she pretends to have all the concerns of a mother, when in reality she has little loving feeling or maternal protectiveness. Austen presents Mary as an example of a bad (but not malicious) mother, someone who cares more about her own entertainment than her child's well-being.
Mrs. Musgrove is reminded of her late son when Captain Wentworth, his former commander, comes to dine with them. She wishes to hear as much about her son as possible, and though not hysterical, shows great regret and sadness over the fate of her boy. Unlike Mary, Mrs. Musgrove is not a "silly parent," yet like her daughter-in-law, she uses her children to draw attention to herself. Encouraging Captain Wentworth to speak of Dick means that he must give her attention and comfort. Both passages are examples of Austen's close observation of social roles and the different ways people fill those roles in society.
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