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by Jane Austen

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Anne had previously been engaged to Captain Wentworth, but broke up with him because her family and friends disapproved.

The initial situation is a bit strange because it relies on major action having happened already: it’s like seeing Spiderman 2 having missed Spiderman. Starting eight years after Anne and Wentworth’s first meeting and separation means that both characters have had plenty of time to think over their past actions, and might be ready to do things differently the second time around.


Captain Wentworth returns to the area where Anne lives, but starts courting Louisa Musgrove instead of her.

Anne and Wentworth are less in direct conflict with each other – they can barely speak to each other – than they are with themselves. They want to pretend they don’t care about each other, but those pesky underlying emotions keep coming out.


On a visit to Lyme, Louisa accidentally falls and sustains a head injury, while Mr. Elliot meets and soon becomes interested in Anne.

Louisa’s insistence on leaping off the wall even though it’s an obviously dangerous thing to do makes Wentworth start to go sour on her and re-evaluate Anne, just as Louisa's incapacitated state makes Wentworth duty-bound to marry her if she wants him. To make things even more complicated, Mr. Elliot is trying to put the moves on Anne, and has all the weight of family favor and money behind him. At this point, even if Wentworth wanted to change his mind and go after Anne, he’s got his entanglement with Louisa and his rival Mr. Elliot to get through first.


When they both attend a concert in Bath, Anne realizes that Wentworth still loves her; Anne finds out from Mrs. Smith that Mr. Elliot is a villain.

As a climax, this is fairly quiet – no big explosions or passionate kissing, just watching, talking, and thinking. Yet these paired revelations allow Anne to see clearly the two rivals for her affection under the masks they’ve been putting up, and to make up her mind about what she needs to do to get to her very own happy ending.


Wentworth thinks that Anne is going to marry Mr. Elliot.

Although Anne has figured out Wentworth’s feelings, Wentworth is still in the dark as to whether Anne would take him back. Anne’s trying to drop hints to Wentworth that she’s just not that into Mr. Elliot, but neither she nor the reader is sure yet whether he’s going to put her clues together and solve the mystery (hint: it’s Captain Wentworth in the conservatory with the wedding ring).


Wentworth writes a letter to Anne explaining his feelings for her, and expressing his hope that she still loves him too; Anne meets Wentworth and reveals her continued love for him.

Here’s where everything between Anne and Wentworth gets sorted out, when they're finally able to reveal their feelings for each other – after all the troubles they’ve had to get this far, the rest will be (relatively) easy.


Anne and Wentworth overcome her family’s initial disapproval to marry.

The last chapter ties up most of the loose ends into a neat little package. Anne’s family manages to deal with her marrying Wentworth, even Lady Russell comes around, and Mrs. Smith gets her financial affairs resolved in the bargain. The only notes of uncertainty are whether Mrs. Clay will manage to seduce Mr. Elliot, and whether a war will come to mar Anne’s happiness.

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