Summary, Chapter XI, pages 215-233
Anne arrives at the Musgroves’ rooms for the morning and finds many people assembled there, including the Crofts. Captain Wentworth and Captain Harville are there as well. Wentworth sits down to write a letter he has been discussing with Harville, while Anne listens idly to Mrs. Croft and Mrs. Musgrove discuss the merits and drawbacks of long engagements. Both agree that young people should, as Mrs. Croft states, “‘settle on a small income at once, and have to struggle with a few difficulties together, [rather] than be involved in a long engagement.’” Mrs. Croft goes on to say, however, that an uncertain engagement might be worse than a long one. She believes it would be unwise for parents to allow an engagement “‘without knowing that at such a time there will be the means of marrying.’”
Anne listens with satisfaction to hear Mrs. Croft professing the very arguments that Lady Russell, with good intentions, used to persuade Anne not to marry Wentworth. Wentworth sends her a brief look, showing that he, too, has heard.
Captain Harville beckons Anne to talk with him at the window, where he shows her a portrait of Benwick that he is supposed to have framed for Louisa. He laments that the portrait that was originally meant to go to Fanny is now going to Louisa; he feels that Benwick has too soon forgotten Fanny. Fanny, he says, would not have forgotten Benwick so quickly. Anne agrees, saying that no woman who truly loves could forget the man she loves. Harville argues that men remember longer than women and, because they are stronger physically, have the strongest feelings. Anne acknowledges that such might be true, but that women have the “‘tenderest’” feelings.
Captain Harville pauses to ascertain whether Wentworth has finished the letter, and Wentworth begs for another moment or two. Captain Harville turns back to Anne. He points out to Anne that literature is full of examples of inconstant women. Anne argues that “‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.’” Captain Harville cries that Anne cannot, as a woman, know what it is like when a man leaves his family behind to go to sea. Anne agrees and says that she does not “‘undervalue’” men’s feelings. She merely wants to submit that women love longest, even “‘when hope is gone.’”
Mrs. Croft prepares to leave and asks Wentworth whether she will see him at the Elliots’ tonight or not. Wentworth does not really answer her. He folds the letter he has been writing and tells Harville that he is ready to leave. Anne is astonished when he suddenly bursts back into the room for gloves he left behind and places a letter before Anne’s eyes.
She reads it only to find that he has been listening to her entire conversation with Harville, and that conversation has given him hope that Anne still loves him. If she will have him, she must give him a look to indicate so, and he will appear at her family’s party tonight.
Anne cannot compose herself after such a letter, and she soon makes an excuse to leave. Charles begins to accompany her on the walk home, but soon they are joined by Captain Wentworth, and Charles leaves him to accompany Anne while he attends to some business.
Alone at last, Wentworth professes that he has always loved Anne, although he was very angry with her. He says he never intended to engage with Louisa but found that everyone believed them to be engaged because of his behavior towards her. He was relieved when she chose Benwick, instead. He admits he was jealous of Mr. Elliot, that he feared she would once again be persuaded by her family and agree to marry Mr. Elliot. Anne says that “‘If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not risk. When I yielded, I thought it was duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated.’” Wentworth admits that he let pride keep him from asking Anne again to marry him after he had been at sea two years and had earned money to keep a wife. Anne says she would have married him at that time, and he laments that his own pride kept him from doing so. They might have avoided six years of unhappiness if he had.
That evening, Anne glows when Wentworth attends the Elliot party. She gets a chance to tell him that she does not think she was wrong in refusing him the first time; she was right in listening to Lady Russell, who had only her best interests at heart. Wentworth says that someday he might forgive Lady Russell.
Careful maneuvering takes place in the Musgroves’ rooms as Anne and Wentworth each must indirectly signal to the other that they still love. Anne’s carefully chosen words aim at telling Wentworth that she has been constant, that she has never given up loving him. Wentworth’s letter states what he cannot say aloud in a crowded room: I am constant, too. Each has persuaded the other of the truth without actually uttering a word directly to one another.
Persuasion, then, comes in many forms. And persuasion is not always a negative thing. Anne, older now, acknowledges what Mrs. Croft so wisely confirmed: that to engage oneself without certainty of support or success was foolish. She had no way of knowing that Wentworth would live through the war or come home rich enough to support her. Lady Russell was practical, but also right. Anne’s friend Mrs. Smith is a perfect example of what happens when love blinds a woman to practicalities like money.
Summary, Chapter XII, pages 233-237
Elizabeth and Sir Walter make little objection to Anne marrying Wentworth now. Wentworth, Elizabeth must sourly acknowledge, is both wealthy and respected in his profession, and he is “no longer a nobody.” Sir Walter approves of the way Wentworth’s “superiority of appearance might be not unfairly balanced against her superiority of birth.” Once Lady Russell is told about Mr. Elliot’s devious behavior, she, too, accepts Wentworth as the better man for Anne. Mary is the most delighted. She finds satisfaction in the fact that her sister has married better than either of Charles’s sisters, and also in the fact that Anne will remain below her in status because Charles is to inherit his father’s estate, while Wentworth has no landed estate. Mr. Elliot finds that he is not to be both Sir Walter’s son-in-law as well as the heir to Kellynch, but he has the satisfaction of knowing that someday he will inherit that estate because he kept Mrs. Clay from marrying Sir Walter. Mrs. Clay becomes Mr. Elliot’s mistress in the hope of someday becoming his wife instead. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are shocked that they so misjudged Mrs. Clay. Captain Wentworth soon sets to rights Mrs. Smith’s estate and sees her established in comfort once again.
Like a typical novel of manners, Persuasion ends happily and with the marriage of the heroine. The social dance that has consisted of words both spoken and unspoken, and gestures both overt and subtle, has run its course and ended in marriage. Anne has proved that, despite her gentle and unassuming demeanor, she has more courage and battle sense than even a soldier. She has risked social ostracism and family rancor in order to “speak up” for herself and persuade Wentworth that she loves him and that she is the strong, independent woman he seeks. She has overcome a social convention that insists she is too old to love and a general perception that she is too weak to love.