What happens in Persuasion?

In Persuasion, the 27-year-old Anne Russell regrets breaking off her engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth. She wanted to get married, but her father and sister didn't approve of the match. When Anne and Wentworth meet again, it takes some time to reconcile, but they're happily reunited in the end.

Persuasion summary key points:

  • Anne’s family, affected by financial difficulty, has to rent out their estate and move to a smaller house in Bath to save money. Coincidentally, the couple that rents their house, Kellynch Hall, is the sister and brother-in-law of Captain Wentworth.

  • Anne is staying in a nearby house, with her sister Mary and her husband. When Anne and Wentworth meet again, Anne finds him unchanged and still cares for him, though he is aloof to her.

  • Wentworth develops a flirtation with Anne's neighbor and sister-in-law, Louisa. Louisa jumps down a flight of stairs and injures herself, and Anne feels that Wentworth approves of Anne’s good judgment in taking care of Louisa, but that he and Louisa and will soon be married.

  • Anne is courted by her cousin, Mr. William Elliot, a widower. As Elliot is their father’s heir, the family’s well-wishers hope that he will marry one of the sisters.

  • Louisa gets engaged to someone else. Shortly thereafter, Wentworth comes to Bath and is jealous of Elliot’s interest in Anne, though Anne is not interested in Elliot.

  • Wentworth writes Anne a long, emotional letter, and soon they are engaged again.


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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Sir Walter Elliot is a conceited man, vain of both his good looks and his title. He lives at his country seat, Kellynch Hall, with two of his daughters, Elizabeth and Anne. Elizabeth, handsome and much like her father, is the oldest and her father’s favorite. Anne, sweet, self-effacing, and quietly intelligent, is ignored and underrated by both. Mary, the youngest daughter, is married to an agreeable young man named Charles Musgrove; they live in an untidy house at Uppercross, three miles from Kellynch Hall.

Living beyond his means had brought financial disaster to Sir Walter. On the advice of his solicitor and of a family friend, Lady Russell, he is persuaded to rent Kellynch Hall and take a smaller house in Bath. Anne would have preferred to take a modest house near home, but as usual, her father and sister have their way in the matter.

Reluctantly, Sir Walter lets his beloved country seat to Admiral Croft and his wife, who is the sister of a former suitor of Anne, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Anne and Captain Wentworth had fallen in love when they were both very young, but the match had been discouraged. Anne’s father felt that the young man’s family was not good enough for his own, and Lady Russell considered the engagement unwise because Captain Wentworth had no financial means beyond his navy pay. Anne had followed their advice and broken the engagement, but Wentworth had advanced and became rich in the navy, just as he had said he would. Anne, now twenty-seven years old, has not forgotten her love at age nineteen, and no one else has taken Captain Wentworth’s place in her affection.

With all arrangements completed for the renting of Kellynch Hall, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and her friend, Mrs. Clay, are off to Bath. Before they depart, Anne warns Elizabeth that Mrs. Clay’s is not a disinterested friendship and that she is scheming to marry Sir Walter if she can. Elizabeth will not believe such an idea, nor will she agree to dismiss Mrs. Clay.

Anne is to divide her time between her married sister, Mary Musgrove, and Lady Russell until Christmas. Mary and her family also live near her husband’s father and mother and their two daughters, Henrietta and Louisa. During her visit to the Musgroves, Anne meets Captain Wentworth again while he is staying with his sister at Kellynch Hall. She finds him little changed in eight years.

Because the Musgroves take the Crofts and Captain Wentworth into their circle immediately, the captain and Anne meet frequently. He...

(The entire section is 1,045 words.)