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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Persuasion published in 1997.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. . . . He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.

Related Characters: Sir Walter Elliot
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, Austen introduces us to the key themes: the importance of marriage, and marriage's relationship with class. If there's an ironclad law of Austen's world, it's that people from high-class families must make high-class marriages--class must perpetuate itself. Sir Walter Elliot, the patriarch of the family, and the product of generations of high-class marriages, loves himself because he's handsome, but more importantly because he comes from a noble family. It makes no difference that Walter is a gambler and has little money left; class is its own currency.

In this searingly ironic passage, Austen makes it crystal-clear that she's making fun of Elliot: he's clearly a narcissistic fool who loves himself more than he cares for anyone else. And yet, as critics have often pointed out, it's not clear if Austen really has an alternative to the system she's making fun of. Austen mocks Walter, and yet she also seems to follow the same rules that Walter respects, showing how her characters achieve happiness and fulfillment mostly by getting married off to wealthy, high-class people.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

Yes; [the Navy] is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as a means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly.

Related Characters: Sir Walter Elliot (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Navy
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Walter, as pompous and foolish as ever, tells us a lot about his character in this passage. Walter and his family are trying to decide what to do about renting their place out; Mrs. Clay (Elizabeth's friend) suggests that they rent it out to Navy men who've come back from active duty. Walter objects to such an idea because he disapproves of the Navy altogether. As far as he's concerned, the Navy is bad because 1) it makes handsome, youthful men ugly and worn out, and 2) it allows low-class people to rise to high-class positions in society.

In other words, Walter's reasons for hating the navy are basically the same as his reasons for loving himself. Walter is so slavishly devoted to the ideal of the English aristocrat that he can't stand the idea of any kind of meritocracy; the idea that a person should attain success because of his own merits, not because of his family tree.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connexions to secure even his farther rise in that profession; would be, indeed, a throwing away, which [Lady Russell] grieved to think of! . . . It must not be, if by any fair interference of friendship, any representations from one who had almost a mother’s love, and mother’s rights, it would be prevented.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Lady Russell
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen describes how Lady Russell, the close friend of Anne's late mother, endeavors to break off a possible marriage between Anne and her lover, Captain Wentworth. Wentworth was a likable, talented man, but he was also relatively poor, and didn't have a reliable career track--therefore, he wasn't a suitable match for Anne. Lady Russell loves Anne, but she thinks of herself as a businesswoman, one could say: her goal is to ensure the survival of Anne's family name and reputation, and to ensure that Anne is provided for over the course of her entire life. Wentworth, with his low income and uncertain future, can't give Anne what she deserves.

Austen gives us a great example of "free indirect discourse" in this passage. Austen is writing in the third person, but she's clearly writing from the point of view of one of the characters, namely Lady Russell (you can almost hear her voice, offering excuses for breaking off the engagement). The effect of this free indirect discourse is to give us a window into Lady Russell's mind: we see that she's a sincere character who genuinely loves and is looking out for Anne, even if she's perhaps a little too reliant on the myths of aristocratic superiority--and if her role of motherly "persuasion" ultimately ends up hurting Anne.

More than seven years were gone since this little history of sorrowful interest had reached its close, and time had softened down much, perhaps nearly all of peculiar attachment to him,--but she had been too dependent on time alone; no aid had been given in change of place . . . or in any novelty or enlargement of society.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen summarizes the significance of Anne's failed engagement to Captain Wentworth: over the seven years that have passed since Lady Russell broke off all possibility of their getting married, Anne has grown rather despondent. When she met Wentworth, she was a young, energetic woman--now, because she's been stuck in the same place surrounded by the same people, she feels dull and tired. She's mostly gotten over Wentworth, but nobody else has come along to propose to her, and so she's beginning to despair that she'll never find a husband.

The passage is a sad reminder of the limited options available to women during Austen's lifetime. Anne is clearly a bright and intelligent woman, but her current purpose in life is to get married to a talented, wealthy man, perpetuating her family's genealogy and assuring that she'll be provided for as she grows older. As a result, Anne is imprisoned in the same place, forced to watch as her sister gets married and her own beauty fades. As ever with Austen, it's not clear what, exactly, Austen would do to help Anne if she could, but there's still an undeniable sadness that hangs over this passage, suggesting that Austen sees the injustice of Anne's situation, and of all English women's situations.

Anne, at seven and twenty, thought very differently from what she had been made to think at nineteen.—She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for having been guided by her; but she felt that were any young person, in similar circumstances, to apply to her for counsel, they would never receive any of such certain immediate wretchedness, such uncertain future good. . . . She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Lady Russell
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Austen describes the supposed "unnaturalness" of the chronology of Anne's concept of love. Anne wanted to get married to a handsome, likable man when she was only 19 years old, but because Lady Russell persuaded her to break off the engagement, the result of the interrupted courtship is that Anne learned the hard rules of marriage early on, and is only now learning about love and romance. As a teenager, she saw the economic rules that governed marriage--only now is she coming to feel truly romantic on account of her loneliness.

The passage is interesting because it suggests a central problem that the novel will have to correct: there's a basic disagreement between the characters' notions of love and their notions of what is practical. Furthermore, the passage might suggest that in this society, it really is important to understand finance and the "hard rules" before falling in love--most people fall in love too early and then have to wise up about money and real estate (particularly women, who in Austen's world have few other options of making money or rising in class). Anne, on the other hand, wised up early--but now that the groundwork has been laid, she is learning to focus on romance.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove were a very good sort of people; friendly and hospitable, not much educated and not at all elegant. . . . Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are by some comfortable feelings of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mr. & Mrs. Musgrove
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we meet the Musgroves, the second-most prestigious family in the parish where the Elliots live. Anne knows the Musgroves well, and secretly admires them because they're down-to-earth and seem not to care particularly about aristocracy or marriage. Where Anne has to be bossed into marrying the "right man," the Musgroves' children seem to get few if any real directions from their parents.

Anne's attitude toward the Musgroves is fascinating: she admires them but would never, ever switch places with them. Anne sometimes wishes that she could think of her own happiness instead of focusing on economics and honoring the family name. And yet she's also conscious of her "noble burden"--she has to find a suitable husband in order to honor her family's history, even if doing so makes her life a little sadder. Furthermore, she subconsciously assumes that her own mind is more "elegant and cultivated" because of her birth and heritage. Anne isn't free from her father's selfish, aristocratic bias, however much she might want to be.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Anne had not wanted this visit to Uppercross, to learn that a removal from one set of people to another, though at a distance of only three miles, will often include a total change of conversation, opinion, and idea. She had never been staying there before, without being struck by it, or without wishing that other Elliots could have her advantage in seeing how unknown, or unconsidered there, were the affairs which at Kellynch-hall were treated as of such general publicity and pervading interest.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot
Related Symbols: Kellynch Hall
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne describes some of the major differences between life in her own household and life among the Musgrove family. The big difference between the Elliots and the Musgroves is a social title: the Musgroves have less of a title, and therefore they seem to take life more easily: they don't put a lot of importance in whom their children marry. Anne visits the Musgroves and is immediately impressed and surprised by the total absence of talk about aristocracy and genealogy--the talk that dominates life in her own home.

Anne is surprised by the Musgroves' easy manner, and yet it's not clear if Anne truly envies them. As unhappy as her pursuit of a "proper" marriage has made her, she seems to consider it her duty to find a proper husband nonetheless. And perhaps her visit to the Musgroves reminds her of how much "easier" (only in some senses, obviously) her life could have been if she hadn't been born into an aristocratic family.

Chapter 7 Quotes

O; the years which had destroyed [Anne’s] youth and bloom had only given [Captain Wentworth] a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessoning his personal advantages. . . . It was now his object to marry. He was rich, and being turned on shore, fully intended to settle as soon as he could be properly tempted; actually looing round, ready to fall in love with all the speed which a clear head and quick taste could allow.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

When Captan Wentworth and Anne reunite, the difference between their lives over the past few years couldn't be clearer. Anne has felt herself to grow less beautiful and vivacious, while Captain Wentworth has only become handsomer and more energetic. The gender double standard here is clear: Anne is a woman, and therefore has to remain with her family, growing old and lonely (and, presumably, less attractive), while Wentworth is a man, meaning that he gets to pursue a career and travel around the world.

There's also an amusing feature of this passage--the fact that Austen makes it clear that Wentworth wants to fall in love as soon as he can manage to. It's odd to imagine someone planning to fall in love, but the fact that Wentworth plans to do so reinforces the businesslike, regular nature of romance and courtship in Austen's society. Wentworth is of age, newly wealthy, and he has some downtime: therefore he must marry someone.

Captain Wentworth had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill; deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen plays with the differences between free indirect discourse and third person narration to create a genuine ambiguity around Captain Wentworth's personality. Wentworth, we're told, has returned to Anne's life behaving coldly and distantly: he seems not to forgive her for breaking off the engagement. In Wentworth's mind, it would seem, Anne has proven herself unworthy of him because of how easily she relented to Lady Russell's persuasion--she chose to please others rather than follow her heart.

Some ambiguity then arises over whether the passage is Anne's impression of what Wentworth must be thinking, or whether it's Austen's description of what the Captain is thinking. it's genuinely difficult to tell: Austen uses both free indirect discourse and regular third-person narration, and therefore it's unclear whether or not we should "trust" the passage. The ambiguity in Wentworth's character in crucial to the plot of the novel: in essence, we'll spend the next 200 pages deciding whether or not to trust this quotation--is the Captain really angry with and disappointed in Anne, or is he still in love with her, or both?

Chapter 8 Quotes

Once so much to each other! Now nothing! . . . With the exception of Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who seemed particularly attached and happy, (Anne could allow no other exception even among the married couples) there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Austen allows the distance that's grown between Anne and the Captain to truly sink in. As always, it's hard to tell if what we're reading is the "truth," or if it's only Anne's personal impression of the truth. Anne seems to believe that when she and Wentworth were younger, they were as close as two human beings could be: they shared all the same dreams and secrets. Now that the engagement has long been broken off and the Captain is angry with Anne, they're cold and distant with one another.

The passage is a deft example of the phenomenon Austen described in a previous quote: Anne has learned the "hard rules" of marriage early on, and it's only now that she's learning about love. One wonders if Anne loved Wentworth as much when she was 19 as she does now--her loneliness and isolation have made her desire the Captain all the more strongly, and she wishes that he could forgive her for ending the engagement so unexpectedly.

Chapter 10 Quotes

It is the worst evil of too yielding and indecisive a character, that no influence over it can be depended on. . . . Let those who would be happy be firm.—Here is a nut. To exemplify,—a beautiful glossy nut, which blessed with original strength, has outlived all the storms of autumn. Not a puncture, not a weak spot any where.

Related Characters: Captain Frederick Wentworth (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne overhears Captain Wentworth talking to Louisa about the importance of resolution and firmness of opinion. Wentworth, a Navy man through and through, believes that Henrietta should commit to her potential suitor, Charles Hayter, more decisively. He compares a good, firm human being to a strong nut: like the nut, a firm person can't be "cracked" or whittled down, and therefore survives over the years.

Wentworth's analogy tells us a lot about his character and his relationship to Anne. Wentworth can't understand how somebody could promise to get engaged to a man and then break off the engagement suddenly; thus, he can't forgive Anne for ending their engagement because of the "persuasion" of another. While Wentworth frames his decision in terms of decisiveness and firmness, his male bias is also clear. Wentworth has a lot more freedom than his female contemporaries, and therefore it's easier for him to commit to one thing; he has nobody else to please, no second opinions to consult, and far fewer economic and social boundaries to consider. Anne, on the other hand, simply can't be firm with anyone: too many other people control her destiny. It's Wentworth's failure to understand the realities of women's lives that makes him unable to forgive Anne.

Yes—he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to giver her rest. . . . It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded with pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Captain Wentworth is passing by Anne in a carriage, and he generously offers to give Anne a lift, recognizing that Anne looks tired from walking. Anne is flattered by Wentworth's offer: she interprets it to mean that Wentworth still has some feelings for her, even if he hides them beneath a facade of coldness and sternness. Austen doesn't tell us if Anne is right or wrong (on the surface of things, it seems that Wentworth just does the right thing; just because he offers Anne a ride doesn't mean that he's still in love with her). Wentworth's behavior in this passage is ambiguous, then, suggesting that he may or may not still love Anne; as the novel goes on, Austen throws out more and more overt hints of about his real feelings, creating a suspenseful mood.

Chapter 12 Quotes

It was evident that the gentleman admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance,—a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, “That man is struck with you,—and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again.”

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne lays eyes on the handsome William Elliot, her potential suitor. Yet because Captain Wentworth is also in the vicinity, he seems to give Anne a look that shows that he's still attracted to her.

The passage is curious because it suggests, very subtly, that Captain Wentworth's feelings for Anne are reignited because she now has another suitor; it's as if he's only interested in Anne when he can't have her. The famous French philosopher Rene Girard has a saying for such a dynamic: "there is always a third person in the room"--in other words, people are more attracted to one another whenever there's a competition for love. Wentworth seems to desire Anne in part because William Elliot also desires her. In such a way, Austen sets in motion the events of the second half of the book: Wentworth and Elliot compete for Anne's affections, forcing Anne to make a difficult choice.

Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him, that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel, that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness, as a very resolute character.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Louisa Musgrove tries to jump from the high stairs into Captain Wentworth's arms; Wentworth naturally drops her, and Louisa injures her head. The incident seems to be a metaphor for the dangers of "hardness," the virtue that Captain Wentworth has previously extolled. It is Louisa's determined nature that impels her to jumps to Wentworth's arms, and it is the literal hardness of the floor that injures her.

As Anne sees it, the incident should prove to Wentworth that being determined and hard are often overrated virtues. Sometimes, it's better to be cautious and indecisive: indecisiveness can be a powerful survival mechanism. By the same logic, Anne seems to be hoping that Captain Wentworth will see why she broke off the engagement; why, sometimes, it's important for a woman to be cautious and indecisive because of her own best interests--in this society, women don't have as much freedom to be firm and decisive as men do.

Chapter 15 Quotes

[Anne] might not wonder, but she must sigh that her father should feel no degradation in his change; should see nothing to regret in the duties and dignity of the resident land-holder; should find so much to be vain of in the littleness of a town; and she must sigh, and smile, and wonder too, as Elizabeth threw open the folding-doors and walked with exultation from one drawing-room to the other, boasting of their space, at the possibility of that woman, who had been mistress of Kellynch Hall, finding extent to be proud of between two walls, perhaps thirty feet asunder.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Sir Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot
Related Symbols: Kellynch Hall
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Anne joins her father and her sister, Elizabeth, in the town of Bath. Anne is secretly amused with her family members for being so impressed with such a tiny, ordinary town. Walter is proud of himself for being powerful enough to travel and reside in a town outside his own home at Kellynch Hall, and Elizabeth seems to feel a similar sense of pride: she praises their accommodations in Bath, even though they're pretty tiny (at least compared to their former home).

The passage is illuminating because it suggests that Anne's family members are more self-satisfied with the mere fact of owning real estate, being able to travel, and being aristocrats, than with the material conditions of their wealth and power. Walter's aristocracy is really title-only; he doesn't have a lot of money or political clout anymore, and yet the mere fact of being an aristocrat is enough to satisfy him. Anne, by contrast, can see (somewhat) through the theater of the aristocracy. The supposed power and glamor of the Baronetage doesn't really exist at all: Walter and Elizabeth are just getting off on their supposed prestige and superiority.

[Mr. Elliot] was quite as good-looking as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking, and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them in excellence to only one person’s manners. . . . There could be no doubt of his being a sensible man. Ten minutes were enough to certify that. His tone, his expressions, his choice of subject, his knowing where to stop—it was all the operation of a sensible, discerning mind.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne gets to know Mr. Elliot a little better--but only a little. Mr. Elliot has come to Bath to visit Anne's family, and although Anne can't decide why he would do such a thing, Anne's family seems sure that he's going to try to marry Anne. Mr. Elliot seems like an excellent suitor for Anne; he's wealthy, successful, and handsome, as well as polite and courteous in tone.

Anne bases her assessment of Elliot's character on a ten-minute interaction with him, however, suggesting that her assessment might not be very accurate at all. Clearly, she's so dazzled by the appearance of properness and likability that she takes Mr. Elliot for granted without investigating any further. Anne seems so desperate for romance that she's willing to marry the first halfway-decent man who comes along, even if she doesn't know him well yet. Anne has made the mistake of being too cautious before, but now she seems to be veering too far in the other direction, throwing all caution to the wind.

Chapter 16 Quotes

My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker), Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mr. Elliot and Anne are getting to know each other better, though Anne still seems to think that Mr. Elliot might be more interested in her sister, Elizabeth. Mr. Elliot asks Anne how she defines good company, and to his surprise Anne disagrees with statements he's made before, claiming that "good company" consists of people who talk about intelligent subjects, rather than blabbing about the importance of social rank and genealogy. Anne, pretty clearly, is directing her criticism at people like her father, who talk about aristocracy and nothing else. Mr. Elliot seems to believe that aristocracy is an important subject, but he also seems to respect Anne for expressing her own opinion instead of blindly agreeing with him.

At this point in the text, Mr. Elliot and Anne seem to have a good relationship; though Elliot is old-fashioned and pretentious in many ways, he at least allows Anne to mature as a thinker, expressing her own ideas and opinions. One reason that Anne seems like a surprisingly modern protagonist is that she distrusts the cult of the aristocracy; like most modern readers (presumably), she doesn't place a lot of stock in one's ancestry--it's more important to be talented, pleasant, or interesting than it is to have the right parents.

Good company requires only birth, education and manners, and with regard to education is not very nice. Birth and good manners are essential; but a little learning is by no means a dangerous thing in good company, on the contrary, it will do very well. . . . Will it not be wiser to accept the society of these good ladies in Laura-place, and enjoy all the advantages of the connexion as far as possible? You may depend upon it, that they will move in the first set in Bath this winter, and as rank is rank, your being known to be related to them will have its use in fixing your family (our family let me say) in that degree of consideration which we must all wish for.

Related Characters: Mr. William Elliot (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Mr. Elliot gives us a glimpse of his real intentions. Mr. Elliot has been arguing playfully with Anne about the importance of education and intelligence in "good company." Where Anne insists that the only qualifications for good company are intelligence and knowledge, Mr. Elliot insists that good company requires pedigree and "birth"--in other words, the best company is always aristocratic (a stimulating conversation with a group of commoners wouldn't really be good company by Elliot's definition). Elliot seems to admit that intelligence is worth something, but it's also clear that he places more stock in birth, meaning that he's not so different from Anne's father, Sir Walter. Elliot's investment in the aristocracy is clear, insofar as he steers the conversation toward social climbing. Elliot suggests that Anne's family association with the aristocracy (and, assuming Mr. Elliot marries into Anne's family, his association) will help them rise in society and gain the proper "degree of consideration."

In retrospect, it's possible to see that Mr. Elliot is actually obsessed with title: he wants to marry Anne (or Elizabeth) because he wants a title for himself. He's only pretending to care about intelligence and good conversation because he wants to impress Anne and con her into accepting his marriage proposal.

Chapter 17 Quotes

A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mrs. Smith
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Anne's old friend Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith has had a tough life: she lost her husband, and also developed a crippling illness that's left her without control of her lower body. And yet Mrs. Smith doesn't allow her life's tragedies to make her sad: she seems incredibly cheery and optimistic at all times--it's as if the universe's woes have changed her external condition, but not the nature of her soul.

Mrs. Smith is an important character because she seems to stand outside the rules of the novel--the rules of marriage, courtship, money, aristocracy, etc. She's "lost," by most definitions--she has no money, no husband, no mobility (literally), etc.--and yet she seems not to care. Because she doesn't let the stakes of marriage and courtship affect her happiness, she seems utterly free--free in a way that the younger, more eligible Anne is not, paradoxically. Mrs. Smith is, one could say, the only character without a personal stake in the events of the plot: she has nothing riding on Anne's engagement except her own friendship with Anne. Therefore, she's a trustworthy character and good advice-giver.

Mr. Elliot was rational, discreet, polished—but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable . . . She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped. Mr. Elliot was too generally agreeable.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Mr. William Elliot
Page Number: 118-119
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn that Mr. Elliot really is trying to marry Anne, not her sister, Elizabeth. Mr. Elliot is a charming, highly agreeable man, but there's something untrustworthy about him: he's so clean that he has to be dirty. Previously, Anne has been charmed by Mr. Elliot's easy manner and witty observations, but now she's beginning to wonder if he might be hiding something from her and her family. It's as if Mr. Elliot wears a mask of cheerfulness and respectability, beneath which one would find his true feelings (or actions).

Previously, Anne thought of Mr. Elliot as charming and likable--but what has changed in Anne's assessment of Mr. Elliot? In no small part, Anne is having second thoughts about Mr. Elliot because she's just seen her old friend Mrs. Smith. Interacting with Mrs. Smith, who stands outside the great "game" of courtship, politeness, and properness, helps Anne see how fake and insincere the game really is; as a result, she has an easier time seeing through Mr. Elliot's suave behavior.

Chapter 23 Quotes

We [women] certainly do not forget you, so soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions. . . . All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker), Captain and Mrs. Harville
Page Number: 173-175
Explanation and Analysis:

In this illuminating passage, Anne has a playful argument with Captain Harville about whether men or women are more constant and devoted in their love for other people. Anne argues that woman are more devoted, because they have to reside at home, and have nothing to nourish their spirits except for their feelings for the people they care about. Men, on the other hand, have jobs and careers to distract them from their true feelings; therefore, they can get distracted by other things, and forget about their loved ones.

The debate that Anne and Captan Harville have is, of course, highly relevant to the plot of the novel and to Austen's social criticism of gender inequality. Anne is remembering her love for Captain Wentworth, and suggests that Wentworth has found it easier to forget about Anne than vice versa, since he's had a long and fulfilling career as a Navy man. In such a way, Anne subtly makes herself the real victim of the broken engagement with Wentworth. Over the course of the novel, Anne has become a lively and witty young woman, discovering the courage to disagree with her male companions, asserting her agency in doing so--even if she still has little real social power or independence as an unmarried woman.

I will not allow it to be more man’s nature than woman’s to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of being most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather.

Related Characters: Captain and Mrs. Harville (speaker)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Captain Harville disagrees with Anne about whether men or women are the most devoted in their love for other people. Where Anne insists that men are inferior to women as lovers, Harville that because men have stronger bodies than women, they must also have stronger emotions and willpower than women.

It's important to notice that Harville's argument is simply worse than Anne's--more poorly constructed, not as well thought-out, and more bullying in its presentation. In such a way, Austen subtly forces the debate toward Anne's position: reading the passage, the reader easily concludes that Anne is right: women (at the time, at least) really are better and more devoted lovers, since they don't have professions and careers to distract them. Nevertheless, Harville has a point, at least in this individual situation: his observations have obvious relevance to Captain Wentworth's feelings for Anne. Over the years, it's implied, Captain Wentworth has actually continued to love Anne, even if he sometimes hides his feelings beneath a mask of formality and curtness.

There [Anne and Captain Wentowrth] returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot, Captain Frederick Wentworth
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Wentworth affirms his love for Anne; he admits that he's loved her all along, even after she broke off their engagement. Wentworth and Anne, having acknowledged that they love each other, find themselves transported to the past; they rediscover their former feelings for each other. Moreover, Austen suggests that Anne and Wentworth are actually more in love now than they were years before.

Austen's purpose in the rest of Chapter 23, as we'll see, is largely to show that Anne and Wentworth were right to wait before getting married: breaking off the engagement the first time around wasn't a mistake, just as it isn't a mistake for them to get married now. It's as if Anne and Wentworth's feelings for one another have matured over the years, resulting in a love that's stronger for having already withstood the test of time. Unlike most marriages in Austen's lifetime, Anne and Wentworth's marriage is already rooted in genuine, powerful love: the fact that Anne and Wentworth have continued to love each other over so many years virtually proves that they'll continue to love each other for the rest of their lives.

If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker)
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anne and Wentworth work out some of their feelings for each other. Anne tries to explain why she turned Wentworth down so many years ago: others persuaded her to do so for practical reasons. Yet Anne no longer seems not to regret her decision altogether: on the contrary, she believes that duty and prudence really are important in achieving happiness. Notice the way that she alludes to the possibility of marrying Mr. Elliot: such a decision would have been a bad one, she explains, because it would have violated her duty to her family (demonstrating that Anne continues to place a lot of stock in the concept of duty itself). Asserting one's will blindly isn't always the best course of action, essentially--often it's necessary to take other, more complicated factors into consideration when making decisions.

I was right in submitting to her, and that if I had done otherwise, I should have suffered more in continuing the engagement than I did even in giving it up, because I should have suffered in my conscience. I have now, as far as such a sentiment is allowable in human nature, nothing to reproach myself with; and if I mistake not, a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman’s portion.

Related Characters: Anne Elliot (speaker), Lady Russell
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne continues to talk with Captain Wentworth about her decision to beak off their engagement years ago. While Anne has gone through a lot of sadness in the years following her decision, she now seems not to regret her decision anymore; she took the advice of a good mentor, Lady Russell, and she's now happy she did.

The point of the passage seems to be that Anne was right to wait so many years for Wentworth, and to allow herself to be persuaded by her trusted friends. The years between her first and second engagements have strengthened Anne's character and strengthened her love for Wentworth, and the same is true of Wentworth. The moral, one could say, is that being completely headstrong and impulsive is just as bad as being completely obedient to other people; in Anne's character, we see the compromise between duty and freedom, persuasion and independence--Anne is a mature young woman, but her independence doesn't compel her to ignore others' advice; she marries Wentworth now because it's the practical and the romantic thing to do.

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