Jane Austen

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Persuasion: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Mr. Shepherd recommends that Sir Walter consider a man from the Navy for his tenant, as the end of war will be returning many to England. Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay proudly exclaim over what an honor it would be for a tenant to live in Kellynch Hall. Sir Walter finds the Navy offensive because it “brings persons of obscure birth into undue distinction” and it weathers a man’s good looks. Mrs. Clay flatters Sir Walter by suggesting that every profession wears on a man’s looks except that of the established landowner.
The Navy is another emerging vehicle for social mobility and offers an alternative means of attaining rank and wealth in contrast to either birth or marriage: in the Navy men of low birth may earn honor and fortune through hard work and service for their nation at sea. For this reason, Sir Walter regards the Navy with wariness; it threatens the established order of the aristocracy.
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Mr. Shepherd reports that the wealthy Admiral Croft of Somersetshire is looking to settle down in the neighborhood, and he recommends him as a very respectable and responsible tenant. He assures Sir Walter of Admiral Croft’s desirable qualities: he is healthy looking, from a gentleman’s family, and married without children. His wife is sure to look after the estate well. He also mentions that Admiral Croft’s wife is the sister of Mr. Wentworth, a curate at Monkford in the area. Sir Walter is unimpressed with this connection, but his vanity and sense are both satisfied by Admiral Croft’s eligibility: his tenant is of good status, but not too superior. Mr. Shepherd is authorized to arrange the deal, and Elizabeth is pleased at the prospect of Bath. Anne departs with the anticipation that she may soon see her first love.
In addition to the social advantages of the Navy, there is considerable suggestion as to its virtues as a more meritocratic vehicle of change. Naval officers are considered hard-working, brave, and responsible; Mr. Shepherd suggests as much in recommending Admiral Croft not only for his social suitability but stewardship qualifications. There is also some suggestion that the presence of a woman will ensure that the domestic sphere is well looked after. Sir Walter again reveals his snobbery in considering Admiral Croft’s rank of first importance.
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