Persuasion | Study Guide

Jane Austen

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Chapter 4

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of Jane Austen's novel Persuasion.

Persuasion | Chapter 4 (Volume 1, Chapter 4) | Summary



The narrator discloses the history of Mr. Wentworth's time in Monkford. Over the span of six months he and Anne Elliot meet and fall in love. Sir Walter Elliot disapproves of the relationship because Anne gains nothing socially or financially from it. Wentworth, a naval officer confident he will advance in rank and fortune, is challenged by Lady Russell, who disapproves of the relationship for reasons similar to Sir Walter's. Because of her friend's lack of support Anne ends the relationship, cutting their happiness short. Wentworth, miserable, leaves the country.

Eight years later Anne, at 27, still has not experienced intense feelings for anyone but him. At 22 she refused the proposal of Charles Musgrove, who instead married her younger sister.

Even though she does not blame others Anne regrets ending her engagement. Tracking the whereabouts of her former fiancé, she knows that he has gained a fortune and remains unmarried. The news of Mrs. Croft's arrival at Kellynch Hall worsens her heartbreak. She doubts the Crofts know about the romantic connection, and she hopes those who know of the past and remain nearby (Lady Russell, specifically) do not mention it or encounter him.


As Anne and Wentworth's controversial engagement is revealed, the plot thickens. Readers learn that not only did Sir Walter disapprove of Anne's engagement at the time, but he also now appears to have forgotten the circumstance entirely. Overlooking Anne's former love and current heartbreak shows Sir Walter's lack of interest in Anne. His insistence on referring to the engagement as a "degrading alliance" supports his self-obsessed, unchanging character. The chapter explores the theme of upward mobility as it details the opposition to the engagement: it would not have advanced Anne Elliot's status.

By introducing Sir Walter's and, especially, Lady Russell's influence on Anne, the author strengthens the theme of persuasion. While the repetition of "she did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself" displays Anne's generous character, it also highlights her regret. This furthers the plot as Wentworth's return becomes a possibility. In her father's opinion (or lack of opinion) on the relationship, the repetition of great ("Sir Walter ... gave it all the negative great astonishment, great coldness, great silence, and a professed resolution of doing nothing for his daughter") creates tension. Because he is a static character his unchanging opinion lingers and poses a threat to a possible reunion, developing the story's conflict.

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