Persuasion: Volume I - Chapter 2,3

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Summary, Chapter II, pages 16-22

Mr. Shepherd and Lady Russell ponder how to get the Kellynch estate out of debt without diminishing the honor of Sir Walter and his family. Lady Russell consults Anne, who has no puffed up sense of pride that prevents her from suggesting stringent measures. Anne’s plan would see the estate debt-free in seven years. Anne, unlike her father and Elizabeth, feels it is their duty to pay their debts. However, Sir Walter and Elizabeth balk at such measures as giving up their horses and carriage, their lavish meals, their trips to London, and so forth. The only measure that seems possible is to “quit Kellynch-hall” altogether.

It is decided that the family will rent Kellynch-hall to someone respectable, while they in turn move to Bath, where Sir Walter can “there be important at comparatively little expense.” Anne hates to leave the country, but her opinion is not counted. Lady Russell supports this plan, despite Anne’s reservations, because she also wishes to remove Elizabeth from her growing intimacy with Mr. Shepherd’s daughter, Mrs. Clay, whom she considers beneath Elizabeth’s notice. Mrs. Clay, who has returned to her father’s house “after an unprosperous marriage,” has wormed herself into Elizabeth’s confidence through flattery and quite displaced Anne as the proper confidante for Elizabeth.

Summary, Chapter III, pages 22-29

Sir Walter is being very picky about whom he should let rent Kellynch-hall. Mr. Shepherd persuades him to consider renting to someone from the navy. A war has just ended, and there are many rich naval officers returning to England and seeking a home befitting their new wealth. Sir Walter, however, has two serious objections to naval men. First, renting to one would be “‘the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction.’” Second, naval men in general are not good looking after spending so much time in sun and wind. Anne points out that naval men have made great sacrifices for their country and deserve a comfortable home. Mrs. Clay points out that “‘we are not all born to be handsome’” as Sir Walter.

Mr. Shepherd puts forth a desirable applicant, Admiral Croft, emphasizing that he is a “‘well-looking man, a little weather-beaten to be sure, but not much.’” He has no children, only a wife, and will be scrupulous in caring for Kellynch-hall. In fact, Mrs. Croft is related to a clergyman who used to live quite near, but he cannot remember the man’s name.

When Mr. Shepherd cannot come up with the man’s name, Anne supplies it: “‘You mean Mr. Wentworth, I suppose.’”

Sir Walter and Mr. Shepherd discuss the merits and drawbacks of Admiral Croft, and Mr. Shepherd persuades him that being able to say that he has let his house to an admiral will sound very impressive indeed, almost like a favor rather than a necessity. Elizabeth merely wants to leave the neighborhood immediately to avoid further mortification.

Anne leaves the room to walk outside. In a few months, she realizes, “‘he, perhaps, may be walking here.’”


Chapters two and three further refine the Elliots’ sense of value. While title and possessions are important, good looks trump them as desirable qualities. Sir Walter would rather keep his house and be in debt than let a man without good looks rent the house and help them get out of debt. To him, appearance is everything. He completely discounts the notion that some men—those with real honor, like a naval officer—might sacrifice their looks for the good of others and for their duty. Elizabeth, too, values appearance above all else. Her vanity and sense of importance are so flattered by homely Mrs. Clay that she cannot see value in her own sister, whose sense and integrity would be far more valuable than flattery—if only foolish Elizabeth could see beyond herself and realize this. Both Sir Walter and Elizabeth value most those things that promote their own importance, rather than what is really important: living with honor and duty. Sacrifice, to them, is giving up comfort and social standing. When their definition of sacrifice is juxtaposed with that of sailors at sea during war—and with Anne’s belief that sacrifice is a part of honor—Sir Walter and Elizabeth are revealed as shallow indeed.

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