The narrator compares the determination of young couples to marry against all odds with the advantages of Anne and Captain Wentworth, who possess maturity of mind, consciousness of right, and independence of fortune. Now that Captain Wentworth has risen in rank and fortune, he is a suitable match for the daughter of a “foolish, spendthrift baronet.” Sir Walter and Elizabeth are reconciled to the marriage. Lady Russell is forced to admit her error of judgment regarding both Mr. Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and as she earnestly desires Anne’s happiness as her own daughter, she comes to appreciate Captain Wentworth. Mary is pleased that her sister has married better than the Musgrove sisters and takes some credit for bringing them together.
Austen affirms the mature marriage of Anne and Captain Wentworth, even going so far as to suggest its superiority over more youthful marriages that brashly succeed out of sheer, heedless passion.Anne and Captain Wentworth have developed a deep understanding of their compatibility for each other and a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits. Yet their marriage is also enabled by the change in Captain Wentworth’s social importance through the Navy, which renders the conclusion more conservative than romantic: Austen’s vision of marriage does not neglect pragmatic and worldly considerations.
Mr. Elliot is dismayed and shocked; he departs Bath, mortifying Elizabeth once again, who has yet to find a potential suitor. When Mrs. Clay leaves soon after and takes up residence under Mr. Elliot’s protection in London, it becomes clear that he has been working to secure her affections to prevent her marriage to Sir Walter. However, the narrator hints that it is unclear whose wiles will win out—Mrs. Clay may yet secure a marriage to Sir William Elliot.
Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay are physically removed from the novel’s conclusion, as the extent of Mr. Elliot’s duplicitous schemes becomes clear: he has been playing two games, both designed to further his hold on inheriting Sir Walter’s baronetcy: attempting to marry Anne and detach Mrs. Clay from Sir Walter to ensure he never has a male child that would become his heir. Austen’s surprising pairing of Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay suggest that the two deserve each other for their schemes on the Elliot family.
While Anne regrets that she has few connections of real merit in friends and family to offer Captain Wentworth in marriage, he warmly attaches himself to her friends Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith. He aids Mrs. Smith in getting some of her husband’s money back, and they all remain good friends.
The social connections that Anne desires to give her husband are not just of lineage or wealth, but those of good company and conservation, which neither Sir Walter nor Elizabeth can offer.
Anne and Captain Wentworth enjoy a happy marriage; her tenderness is met in his affection. She delights in being a sailor’s wife, and the threat of war is all that can “dim her sunshine,” as her husband belongs to that profession even “more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.”
Austen concludes with Anne and Captain Wentworth’s model marriage, and the suggestion that the Navy is a praiseworthy profession not only for its national heroism but its more meritocratic means of raising men above their birth, enabling Captain Wentworth to marry his beloved Anne.