Persuasion

Jane Austen
Summary

Chapters 7–8

Summary Chapters 7–8

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.

Analysis

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.