Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 12

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 12 of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.

Persuasion | Chapter 12 (Volume 1, Chapter 12) | Summary



In the morning Anne and Henrietta visit the sea. Captain Wentworth and Louisa join them. On their way back the four encounter a gentleman who admires Anne. Back at the inn the party witnesses the same man leave in a carriage. Wentworth learns that it is a Mr. William Elliot (possibly Mary Elliot Musgrove and Anne's cousin and their father's heir).

After breakfast the whole group walks to the Cobb for one last look at the sea before their return. All descend the stairs carefully, except Louisa who jumps off the stairs and is caught by Wentworth. Enjoying the sensation she runs up the stairs to jump again, ignoring Wentworth's protest, and jumps before he is ready to catch her again. She falls and is knocked unconscious. Under Anne's direction Captain Benwick runs for a doctor, Wentworth carries Louisa to the inn, and Charles Musgrove escorts the others.

When the Harvilles intercept the group, they redirect them to their house. The doctor visits and pronounces Louisa's case hopeful, whereupon the party splits, with some staying in Lyme with Louisa. Wentworth, Henrietta, and Anne return by carriage to Uppercross to inform the Musgroves of the accident.

When they reach Uppercross, Wentworth asks Anne for her advice. She approves the plan for him to tell the Musgroves while Anne remains with Henrietta in the carriage. Immediately afterward he returns to Lyme.


The chapter serves as the novel's height of external conflict. On the party's last walk Louisa ignores Wentworth's plea not to jump down the steps at the Cobb again and says she's "determined [she] will." This flirtation recalls a past conversation on a walk (where he compliments her "firmness"). Louisa's injury abruptly changes the mood of their trip and reveals the difference between being firm—a positive quality—and being foolishly willful—a negative.

Because of Wentworth's intense reaction to Louisa's injury, Anne seems to accept his romantic interest in Louisa. Yet Anne's character appears to be at a turning point, too. The appearance of William Elliot and his visible interest in her (noticed by Wentworth), as well as Benwick's attentions at the Harvilles and on the walks, may suggest romantic promise in Anne's future, and so the end of Volume 1 serves as the height of internal conflict as well; it is a turning point for the main characters. Will they reunite, or will they abandon their attachments and seek other romantic interests?

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