Captain Frederick Wentworth, Mr. Wentworth’s brother, is the subject of Anne’s anticipation; he lived in Monkford in 1806, seven years earlier when he and Anne were in their early twenties, where he and Anne fell in love. He was a fine young man, intelligent and spirited; however, he has neither wealth nor good social connections to render him Anne’s social equal.
Anne and Captain Wentworth are a good match in terms of their looks, personalities, and characters; they both possess kind hearts and strong understanding, with Wentworth’s confidence complementing Anne’s sensibility.
Anne and Captain Wentworth planned to marry, but Sir Walter and Lady Russell considered the alliance very degrading and Captain Wentworth reckless. Lady Russell strongly opposed the match, believing it her duty to protect Anne from throwing herself away in such an unequal match. She eventually persuaded the young and gentle Anne to call off their engagement as imprudent. Heartbroken, Anne nonetheless consoled herself that she was acting in both of their best interests. However, Captain Wentworth believes himself ill-used by Anne and leaves the country. Anne’s grief at the broken engagement fades away her youthful spirit and beauty.
However, they are an unsuitable match for each other in terms of worldly and practical considerations of financial dependency, social rank, and blood (lineage). However unromantic, Austen ultimately affirms the significance of these barriers and the rightness of taking them into consideration: Anne’s decision to submit to Lady’s Russell’s advice may be interpreted as the affirmation of duty, honor, and humility over passion—though it is interpreted as weakness of will by young Captain Wentworth.
Seven years later, Anne has had no second attachment (although Charles Musgrove proposed to her before marrying her sister Mary), change of place, nor enlargement of society to distract her, although time has eased her suffering. Although she does not blame Lady Russell for her advice, she regrets her decision; time has justified Captain Wentworth’s hopes for the future, as he has by now attained a handsome future and rank in the navy. Having been prudent in her youth, she has learned romance with maturity. Now that Captain Wentworth’s sister, Mrs. Croft, will reside in Kellynch Hall, these memories resurface.
As a woman, Anne’s opportunities for social mobility, love, and life are much more limited than Captain Wentworth’s. Even though her aristocratic position offers her certain security and pleasures, she cannot seek fulfillment and distraction from heartbreak through career and travel as Captain Wentworth does. The addition of eight years also disproportionately reduces her marital prospects, as she nears the age of spinsterhood.