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Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 16

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.

Persuasion | Chapter 16 (Volume 2, Chapter 4) | Summary



The next day Anne goes downstairs and overhears Sir Walter and Elizabeth trying to convince Mrs. Clay to stay, saying that she is more important to them than Anne. Mrs. Clay agrees to remain. Later that morning Sir Walter admires the positive changes in Anne's appearance. She is "less thin" and her complexion is "clearer, fresher." When her father recommends a beauty product to Anne, which he has also recommended to Mrs. Clay, he notes that Mrs. Clay's freckles, which he detested before, have improved.

When Lady Russell arrives at the Elliots' house she learns more about William Elliot and now believes he is the perfect man to marry someone. Gathering what they can of his last marriage, Lady Russell senses he will want to marry again. With everyone "bewitched" by William Elliot's charm, Anne still questions his sudden change of heart and reflects about him, "They did not always think alike. His value for rank and connection she perceived to be greater than hers."

When their aristocratic cousins, Lady Dalrymple and her daughter the Honourable Miss Carteret arrive, Sir Walter reintroduces himself, seeking social connections with them, and the group visits Laura Place, Lady Dalrymple's Bath residence. "Ashamed" at her family's social climbing behavior, Anne finds her distant relations dreary and unaccomplished. Although Lady Russell and Mr. Elliot agree with her assessment, they are pleased with the association. Mr. Elliot convinces Anne the new company will be socially beneficial and help keep her father from being infatuated with Mrs. Clay, a possibility that continually worries Anne.


Because Anne has not observed the improvement Sir Walter sees in Mrs. Clay's complexion, Anne suspects he is developing romantic feelings for his daughter's friend. Anne does not approve of such a romance as she distrusts Mrs. Clay.

Most of the chapter's focus is on the new family connections: William Elliot and the Dalrymples. The appearance of the Dalrymples on the scene once again highlights Anne's disdain for social rank or "place." This attitude sets her at odds with William Elliot. While Anne believes good company consists of "clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation," William Elliot insists good company requires only "birth, education, and manners," but he says Anne's description is of the "best" company.

As Anne spends more time with William Elliot, their differences align his character more with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, creating distance between them. These disagreements serve to heighten the fact that Anne and Captain Wentworth have so much in common, and she is, again, isolated. However, the chapter ends on Anne and William Elliot's one similarity. They agree Mrs. Clay's motivations are not genuine. Anne would prefer that her father not look for romance at all, while William Elliot risks losing Kellynch Hall and the baronetcy were Sir Walter to remarry and produce a direct heir. In Captain Wentworth's absence this commonality draws Anne and William Elliot closer.

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