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Persuasion | Chapter 5 (Volume 1, Chapter 5) | Summary

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Summary

When Admiral and Mrs. Croft tour Kellynch Hall, Anne Elliot walks to Lady Russell's home to avoid them. After a positive meeting the two parties make an agreement. Sir Walter Elliot plans to move within a month.

Lady Russell wants Anne to stay with her, but she will be traveling. When Mary Elliot Musgrove, claiming to be sick and needing attention, requests Anne's presence, Lady Russell is relieved and promises to bring Anne to Bath in the winter. However, with the news that Mrs. Clay will accompany Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot to Bath, Lady Russell is concerned. Both she and Anne fear that Mrs. Clay might have designs on Sir Walter. Anne, used to her father's abuse, is angry only at Elizabeth, whose ego is more fragile than her own. When Anne confronts her about Mrs. Clay, Elizabeth dismisses her concerns and attacks Mrs. Clay's looks, which Anne suggests their father may learn to overlook under the influence of Mrs. Clay's flattering ways.

After the three leave for Bath, Anne goes to Lady Russell's and then to Uppercross. When she arrives Mary is resting yet well enough to start complaining. After Anne's coddling Mary asks Anne to go for a walk. Breaking what Mary believes to be protocol, they stop at the Great House to call upon Mary's in-laws. Mary invites her sisters-in-law, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, to accompany them.

Analysis

This chapter reveals information about Mary and the Musgroves, in particular, their character and place in society. Through the sisters' conversation, it is apparent that Mary shares with her father and Elizabeth the character trait of self-importance. As the only married Elliot daughter she furthers the theme of upward mobility through her frequent comments on the romantic opportunities of others.

Mary's character also creates tension. A young mother of two, she seems aware of the ways in which society and marriage limit her, and her situation directly affects her health—or her perception of it. Indeed, one aspect of Austen's exploration of the illness motif is through Anne and Mary's relationship. The only one willing to spend time with Mary is Anne, revealing her generosity of spirit. Austen's portrayal of Mary also shows one of her characteristic skills as a novelist: by subtly calling the reader's attention to details such as Mary's declaration that she is too ill to speak, a declaration she follows up with quite a lot of speech, Austen deploys an understated dramatic irony, where the audience is aware of something the character is not, that she uses to critique both character and social convention.

Through conversation readers see Mary's fickleness and contradictory nature, a constant irritant throughout the story. After Mary says she has never been "so ill in [her] life," after a short time she suggests a walk. The motif of walks, too, appears throughout the story as offering opportunities for reflection, growth, and conversation.

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