Persuasion

by: Jane Austen

Chapters 9–10

The party makes their way to Winthrop, the home of the Hayters. Mary wants to turn around immediately, as she does not approve of associating with people of such low connection, but Charles insists on calling on his aunt; he and Henrietta visit the Hayters. While Charles and Henrietta are gone, the rest of the group looks for seats in the woods. Mary is never satisfied because she thinks Louisa must have found a better seat somewhere else. Louisa pulls Captain Wentworth aside and they talk of firmness of character; Louisa has convinced Henrietta to visit Charles, though Henrietta would have turned back from her decided destination. Captain Wentworth compares strength of character to the "happiness" of a hazelnut that has not yet dropped off the tree. The conversation continues and Louisa remarks that Mary sometimes bothers her excessively with her "Elliot pride."

Louisa tells Captain Wentworth that Charles wanted to marry Anne before Mary, but that Anne refused him. Captain Wentworth seems very interested in this piece of information. When Henrietta returns to the group, she brings Charles Hayter with her. It is now very clear that Louisa is meant for Captain Wentworth, and Henrietta for Charles.

On the walk back home, they pass Admiral and Mrs. Croft who are out in their carriage for a ride. Guessing that Anne might be tired, Captain Wentworth arranges for the Crofts to give her a ride home; Anne appreciates the kind gesture. The Crofts tell her that they hope Captain Wentworth will settle down with a nice girl soon. Anne notices that the Crofts share the reins and the responsibility of driving; Mrs. Croft steers them around posts and ruts. Anne observes that this is representative of the symbiotic way they run their marriage.

Analysis

While most of Jane Austen's novels end in marriage, few of her works provide examples of couples with long and healthy relationships. Admiral and Mrs. Croft are an exception to this rule. Austen provides them as an example of a perfect marriage. The couple cannot bear to be apart; they are constantly together, even at sea. The drive home illustrates the way their marriage runs. While Admiral Croft drives the carriage most of the time, Mrs. Croft not infrequently grabs the reins to steer them around posts, ruts, and obstacles. Their relationship is symbiotic, each depending on the other for their happiness. Such a vision is extraordinarily progressive for the time. The idea of separate spheres and responsibilities for men and women is destroyed in the Crofts' marriage. Because they do everything together, they take equal joy in going to sea and in fixing a creaky door in their home. Such an equal partnership was a very forward-looking vision for the generally conservative Austenian world.