Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 20

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 20 of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.

Persuasion | Chapter 20 (Volume 2, Chapter 8) | Summary



While waiting for Lady Dalrymple's arrival at the concert venue (the Assembly rooms, an elegant public meeting space), Anne sees Captain Wentworth. He acknowledges her, and she begins a conversation. As it wanes and she thinks he is about to leave, he begins talking about Lyme, Louisa Musgrove, and Captain Benwick. Expressing surprise at the match (Benwick being "clever" and bookish, Louisa merely "amiable" and "sweet-tempered"), he praises Captain Benwick's late fiancé, Fanny Harville, and insists, "A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman." Conscious of the double meaning of his words Anne begins "to breathe very quick."

Lady Dalrymple arrives. While Anne greets her Wentworth disappears. In the concert hall Anne reviews their talk and comes to realize he must still love her. She searches for him in the audience without success. William Elliot sits near Anne and hints that he hopes to marry her. Anne misses locking eyes with Wentworth, and he never looks at her again.

Disturbed by her cousin's flattery, Anne hopes Captain Wentworth will speak to her. He doesn't. Before the concert ends she moves to the end of the bench to create a better opportunity for conversation with him, but as Wentworth approaches she senses something wrong. After William Elliot interrupts them to ask Anne to translate some Italian words, Wentworth leaves abruptly. She realizes he is jealous, and her "gratification [is] exquisite" until she realizes he might never learn her true feelings.


In this chapter Anne finally takes action by engaging Wentworth in conversation. This decision helps determine her fate and develops the plot as well as her character, which has been passive to this point regarding her feelings about Wentworth. When she discovers Wentworth thinks Louisa is not intellectual enough for Captain Benwick, the possibility of their reunion becomes more likely. However, this conversation, which Anne has been determined to have since learning of the concert, becomes more complicated by others (Lady Dalrymple's arrival, William Elliot's interruption, the physical space between their seats) and thus heightens the drama.

When Anne realizes the connection between Captain Wentworth's withdrawal and William Elliot's presence, her annoyance grows. With so few opportunities at her command to reveal her feelings to him—glances, smiles, conversations with double meanings—she must now also contend with Wentworth's jealousy of Elliot and his belief that Anne is interested in her cousin. When Wentworth is determined to leave Anne reminds him of their shared love of music: "Is not this song worth staying for?" However, her plea, a reference to a shared pleasure that has brought them together, is met with a reserved coldness of manner. This candid display of emotion has some benefit in convincing Anne that he does, indeed, still care for her.

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