Persuasion

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Persuasion Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Anne visits Mrs. Smith, reflecting along the way on Mr. Elliot’s attentions with gratitude and regret. She feels that Captain Wentworth will have her love forever. She happily recounts the previous evening to an attentive Mrs. Smith, who seems anxious for all the details. Mrs. Smith believes Anne is in love with Mr. Elliot, suggesting that he is an extremely eligible bachelor and a match her friends must desire as perfectly suited, but Anne corrects her and insists she will never marry Mr. Elliot. She then asks how Mrs. Smith knows Mr. Elliot.
The evening at the concert serves as a climax of sorts, as the previous day’s reflections confirms Anne’s indifference towards Mr. Elliot in spite of his various recommendations of wealth, rank, relation and Lady Russell’s advice, and Anne’s enduring attachment to Captain Wentworth after all these years.
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After some hesitation, Mrs. Smith shocks Anne by excoriating Mr. Elliot as a cold-blooded and selfish scoundrel. She recounts her history with him: he was once the dear friend of her husband, who often helped him out with money, as he was poor back then. His main motive back then was to become wealthy and independent, which was why he slighted Sir Walter and Elizabeth in favor of marrying a rich woman. He cared nothing for the honor of his lineage, which he held as “cheap as dirt.” Mrs. Smith shows Anne a letter from Mr. Elliot as proof, in which he disdains the attentions of the Elliots and threatens to auction Kellynch.
Mrs. Smith provides shocking information about Mr. Elliot’s past that serves to sever any remaining sympathy that Anne felt towards Mr. Elliot: he was a selfish, greedy, and callous individual. Intriguingly, one of the crimes of character most dwelt upon is his disregard for his aristocratic lineage: Anne is outraged by the contempt he previously displayed towards Kellynch Hall and the baronetcy, revealing her own family pride, which Austen seems also to affirm as valid.
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After acquiring his wealth through marriage, Mr. Elliot encouraged Mr. Smith into a life of luxury that financially ruined him. Upon Mr. Smith’s death, Mr. Elliot refused to execute his will, leaving the distraught Mrs. Smith to struggle with all the debts.
Nonetheless, Mr. Elliot’s greatest crimes include his betrayal of and almost inexplicably cruel disregard of Mrs. Smith after her husband’s death.
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Time has taught Mr. Elliot to value his inheritance; now that he is rich, he seeks the baronetcy. Once he learned that Sir Walter might remarry, he grew concerned: the birth of a son would disinherit him from Kellynch. He renewed their acquaintance with the intention of keeping Mrs. Clay from Sir Walter. While he was truly impressed with Anne, their marriage also figures in his schemes as he wants to write into their marriage contract Sir Walter must not marry Mrs. Clay.
Even as time has changed Anne’s sense of her duty to Lady Russell and her family’s advice regarding marriage, it has enhanced Mr. Elliot’s appreciation for his aristocratic inheritance. His ulterior motives—which Anne suspected all along—are finally made clear as another part of his previous selfish greed.
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Anne shudders to think that Lady Russell might have persuaded her into marrying Mr. Elliot. She now believes him to be heartless and cold, his behavior to her friend inexcusable. She decides to inform Lady Russell the truth about his character immediately.
The revelation confirms the superiority of Anne’s judgment to her friend Lady Russell’s. It also rewards Anne’s compassionate renewal of friendship with Mrs. Smith.
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