The Dashwoods settled into Barton Cottage comfortably, and the three sisters would often take long country walks outside. They were on one such pleasant walk when, all of a sudden, it began to rain. The sisters started running back toward their cottage, but Marianne tripped and fell. A gentleman who happened to be passing by stopped, picked her up, and carried her home. He came into the cottage and was handsome, graceful, and elegant.
This mysterious, handsome gentleman suddenly enters the novel, introducing a new possible husband to the Dashwoods’ world. The gentleman immediately displays his graceful, elegant nature through his kind, gallant behavior.
The gentleman introduced himself as Willoughby, and offered to visit the cottage the next day, then left. All the Dashwoods admired him, and Marianne in particular was fond of him. The next day, Sir John visited the Dashwoods and said that he knew Willoughby. He offered to invite Willoughby along with the Dashwoods to dinner at Barton Park.
Being rescued in a storm fulfils Marianne’s desire for romanticism, and she grows immediately fond of the charming Willoughby. Sir John strategically invites Willoughby to dinner to better acquaint Willoughby and the Dashwoods.
Sir John said that Willoughby was staying nearby with a relative and told Marianne that he was “very well worth catching.” Marianne eagerly asked about Willoughby’s spirit, and Sir John said that he was “as good a sort of fellow. . . as ever lived.” He spoke of the Dashwood sisters making “conquests” of men like Willoughby, and this phrasing upset Mrs. Dashwood.
Sir John’s thoughts immediately turn to a possible marriage. He views romantic relationships strategically as “conquests.” Marianne first wants to know about Willoughby’s spirit, which is more important to her than other aspects of his character.