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Persuasion | Chapter 2 (Volume 1, Chapter 2) | Summary

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Summary

With Anne Elliot's help and careful thought Lady Russell writes a financial proposal, softening Anne's more stringent recommendations, which she submits to Sir Walter Elliot. If he follows the suggestions he could recover from his debt in seven years.

After reviewing the plan Sir Walter refuses to relinquish "every comfort of life." Mr. Shepherd then suggests that, to improve his financial situation, he must leave Kellynch Hall. Given three choices (Bath, London, or another country house) Sir Walter, against Anne's wishes, settles on Bath, as London would tempt him to similar extravagance and a smaller house nearby would indicate his reduced circumstances.

A supporter of the plan, Lady Russell believes Bath is a good choice because Anne is unhappy and Elizabeth Elliot is spending too much time with Mrs. Clay, Mr. Shepherd's daughter who has returned home after an unhappy marriage and whom Lady Russell dislikes and mistrusts. Fearing others will learn of his troubles, Sir Walter is ashamed of his situation yet agrees to rent Kellynch Hall.

Analysis

This chapter develops the character of Lady Russell. Anne's godmother and friend, she is a comfort to Anne and offers her a retreat away from Kellynch Hall, her father, and Elizabeth. While Anne and Lady Russell discuss how to deal with Sir Walter's spending, Lady Russell says, "If we can persuade your father to all this ... much may be done." This is the first mention of the titular theme, persuasion, and Lady Russell's introduction of it is important. Because Sir Walter and Elizabeth exclude Anne, she values Lady Russell and her opinion. Yet it was the well-meaning Lady Russell who persuaded Anne to break her engagement eight years earlier—a decision Anne deeply regrets, as readers learn in later chapters.

The theme of foolishness, in this case Sir Walter's, is further explored through what he thinks he deserves: lavish trips, "London, servants, horses," and meals. Because of his pride he insists on leaving rather than staying on "such disgraceful terms." However, in his foolish vanity he has suggested his own financial solution.

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