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Persuasion | Chapter 3 (Volume 1, Chapter 3) | Summary

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Summary

At Kellynch Hall Mr. Shepherd notes that the end of the war has meant the return of navy officers, who need residences. While warning Sir Walter Elliot that rumors surrounding the renting of his home may arise, Mr. Shepherd volunteers to review applications.

When Sir Walter seems reluctant to grant a tenant the full use of his property, such as the gardens, Mr. Shepherd, again, volunteers to handle matters. Anne jumps to support the navy's rights, "The navy ... who have done so much for us, have at least an equal claim with any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give." Mr. Shepherd and Mrs. Clay agree. When Sir Walter criticizes sailors for their "obscure birth" and weathered looks, the others defend the men.

Coincidentally (or not, as Mr. Shepherd has undoubtedly dropped hints in the right circles) the first application Mr. Shepherd receives is from an admiral. After viewing other places the wealthy Somersetshire native shows interest in Kellynch Hall. When Mr. Shepherd mentions the prospective tenants, Admiral Croft and his wife, Sir Walter is unimpressed. Following Anne's detailed account of the man's career, Mr. Shepherd vouches for the Admiral's personal character and background. When Mr. Shepherd mentions that Mrs. Croft is the sister of someone who lived nearby, he cannot recall the name. When Anne offers it—"Mr. Wentworth"—Sir Walter speaks poorly of him, so Mr. Shepherd changes the subject but the reader realizes that Anne has some kind of association with the family.

Analysis

As Mr. Shepherd and Mrs. Clay try to persuade Sir Walter to rent to a navy officer, in fact an admiral, the theme of persuasion builds tension, furthering the plot by pitting the other characters against Sir Walter. Because most of the chapter is written as dialogue, the narrator does not explain the characters' motivations in urging Sir Walter to rent Kellynch Hall to the Crofts. Mr. Shepherd's insistence on handling all matters may seem completely businesslike, even abrasive: as a lawyer he may have monetary interests. Mrs. Clay supports her father's opinions: as Mr. Shepherd brings her with him often her presence may be part of a plan to ingratiate herself with Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Anne has considerable knowledge of and support for the navy: her involvement with Mrs. Croft's brother is hinted at in the close of the chapter. Only Sir Walter's motivations are transparent and his attitudes unchanging.

Vain and argumentative, Sir Walter insists his property, to sailors, would be "the greatest prize of all." This statement underlines his snobbery, and his stubborn lack of development and insight drives the plot.

The other characters are developed through their actions. While Mrs. Clay and Mr. Shepherd are bent on pleasing Sir Walter, primarily through flattery, Anne states mostly facts (Admiral Croft's military career, Wentworth's name), and she notes her opinions with "I think." Kind and soft-spoken she seems overlooked when she speaks and appears invisible to others.

Chapter 3 is the first mention of the name Wentworth. Anne's knowledge of the name foreshadows the return of her former fiancé.

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