Yet, Sir Walter will not hear of altering his lifestyle so significantly. He believes doing without such comforts would be disgraceful to his rank. Finally, Mr. Shepard suggests that the Elliots should leave Kellynch Hall for a short time. In another house, he reasons, the Elliots could more easily alter their style of living to become a more modest household. Sir Walter agrees to this option only if they can find a tenant worthy enough to rent Kellynch. Sir Walter decides that the family will relocate to Bath, dismissing Anne's dislike of the city.
Lady Russell thinks the relocation of the family is a very good idea for two reasons: first, it will help the Elliots save money, and second, it will hopefully separate Elizabeth from her new friend Mrs. Clay, the widowed daughter of Mr. Shepard. Lady Russell is a good woman, but she values propriety, rank, and consequence. She feels that it is out of place for Elizabeth to be friends with Mrs. Clay and she feels the slight that Elizabeth prefers the company of this woman to Anne. We learn that Lady Russell thinks Mrs. Clay a "very dangerous companion."
The opening chapters of Persuasion introduce us to the main characters of the novel and set up the problem which will drive the rest of the plot. The primary conflict is the difficulty of saving money while keeping up the appearance of a rich and titled landowner. The problem Sir Walter faces is not unique; it emerges in part because of the class system of early nineteenth- century England. Such a system, in which families are strictly categorized by their wealth, rank, and birth, necessitates living a lifestyle consistent with one's class. Sir Walter is horrified that people might think less of him for spending less money and is shocked at the prospect of giving up comforts that he considers necessities.
Austen introduces the concept of "retrenching" and implies that it is not an infrequent occurrence for the wealthy families of her time. "Retrenching" involves living less ostentatiously for a period of time in order to save money and get out of debt. In this period of industrial and imperial progress, the traditional aristocracy was having an increasingly difficult time maintaining their large estates and lavish way of living. Lady Russell suggests that the retrenching of respected families is a common occurrence. She notes that, "there will be nothing singular in his case, and it is singularity which often makes the worst part of our suffering, as it always does of our conduct."
In these chapters, we see the first example of persuasion. Anne, Lady Russell, and Mr. Shepard gently convince Sir Walter that it would be best for him to leave Kellynch Hall for a time. They persuade not by appealing to practicality, about which he cares little, but by appealing to his vanity. He is induced to believe that Bath will provide him more consequence and enjoyment than he can receive in Somersetshire. This is an example of positive persuasion that influences a decision on the side of practicality.
These opening chapters establish the Elliot family dynamics. Sir Walter is a "silly parent," and like silly parents in many Austen novels, he precipitates the initial crisis. His vanity and impracticality mean that his more sensible daughter, Anne, must find a way to straighten out the mess. Sir Walter serves as a foil for the valued characteristics which will bring closure to the novel. By existing as a conceited, image-conscious, and insensible man, Sir Walter highlights Anne's opposing qualities of self-deprecation, humility, and sensibility. He has not transmitted his characteristics to her, yet their differences foreshadow potential future conflict in the novel.