Darker elements of Persuasion include Louisa Musgrove's serious head injury, Mrs. Smith's poverty, and such details as the largely unmourned Dick Musgrove, who died at sea.
While Austen speaks directly of the horror Louisa's fall, she maintains a lighthearted tone by dealing swiftly with the series of events that follow, outlining briefly all that is done to help Louisa, and noting positives, such as that Louisa's limbs are unharmed and that
Shocked as Captain Harville was, he brought senses and nerves that could be instantly useful; and a look between him and his wife decided what was to be done.
Sensible, clear, and fast-paced prose saves the episode from melodrama. Also, because Anne must leave with her sister and is not allowed to linger on the scene, neither are we.
Likewise, with Mrs. Smith, Austen helps mitigate her impoverished and invalided state by accentuating the positive. Mrs. Smith, Anne notes, has a "disposition to converse and be cheerful beyond her expectation." Anne, in fact, is astonished that despite having lost a husband, her money, and her health, Mrs. Smith stays so upbeat, attributing it to an
elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself.
Austen has sometimes been criticized for referring to the dead Dick Musgrove as "a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable" young man
who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
This harsh assessment is glossed over by Austen's sleight of hand in moving attention quickly back to Captain Wentworth and his reacquaintance with Anne. But the harsh assessment itself helps the audience not feel this death too deeply.
Darkness in the novel is tempered by a focus on the positive and swift-moving prose that never allows the reader to stop and dwell too long on evils.