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Persuasion | Chapter 17 (Volume 2, Chapter 5) | Summary

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Summary

Anne rekindles a relationship with an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, who is widowed, poor, and suffering from the aftereffects of a rheumatic fever. After Anne lost her mother while at school, Mrs. Smith "considerably lessened her misery." During her second visit, Anne admires Mrs. Smith's "elasticity of mind," and her friend's good spirits and acceptance encourage Anne to visit frequently.

Instead of changing her plans to visit Mrs. Smith and accompanying Sir Walter and Elizabeth for an evening at Laura Place with their aristocratic cousins, Anne keeps her plans with Mrs. Smith. Her father criticizes Anne for her lack of social ambition: "Everything that revolts other people, low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations are inviting to you." He also makes a speech not lost on Anne and Mrs. Clay in which he describes Mrs. Smith in terms that also fit Mrs. Clay: "A widow ... and who was her husband?"

In Anne's absence at Laura Place Lady Russell and William Elliot talk. In their conversation he praises Anne. Lady Russell tells Anne of the conversation and then alludes to his romantic intentions. When Lady Russell suggests Anne could follow in her mother's footsteps as mistress of Kellynch Hall, Anne is momentarily "bewitched" before admitting to herself she has no romantic feelings for her cousin.

Analysis

When Sir Walter berates Anne about her choice of company, she stands her ground, establishing further depth of character. Instead of accepting Lady Dalrymple's invitation, she visits Mrs. Smith. The introduction of Mrs. Smith's character offers what Anne describes previously to William Elliot as "good company." Most of the chapter features conversation between Mrs. Smith and Anne, in which the invalid cheerfully tells Anne how she manages to keep up her spirits.

Lady Russell's allusions to William Elliot's romantic interest in Anne touch on the motif of the pursuit of marriage. Lady Russell seems to think William Elliot is an ideal match for Anne, not on the basis of his position alone but because of his charm and the appealing character traits he has presented. Anne finds him not unappealing, but she continues to mistrust him for his past rather than present behavior. After momentarily delighting in the idea of following her mother, a constant soft spot, as mistress of Kellynch Hall, Anne describes the attributes she values. Although she doesn't mention Wentworth's name, the qualities she lists—"the frank, the open-hearted, the eager"—describe his character, not William Elliot's.

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