Study Guide

Captain James Benwick in Persuasion

By Jane Austen

Captain James Benwick

Captain Benwick, like Anne, has been struck with a bad case of lost love (symptoms: listlessness, fatigue, reading lots of sad poems). While Anne herself isn’t adverse to reciting a few mopey verses while wandering through the dead autumn leaves, Benwick’s diet of pure poetry is like eating nothing but chocolate – while it may seem like a good coping mechanism, it the end it does more harm than good. Anne prescribes him some healthier, nutrient-filled prose to balance out his mental meals.

Although Benwick’s situation is both more extreme than Anne’s (his fiancée is dead) and more recent (a few months past, rather than eight years), she still sees herself as winning a face-off at misery poker: as a man, Benwick will have more opportunities to change his circumstances and meet someone new.

And meet someone new he does; he's engaged to Louisa before his previous fiancée has been dead a year. His swift about-face in matters of love surprises his friends, who thought he would never get over his loss. Is he really recovered, or is this new romance a new way of dealing with his grief? Was he truly all that worked up over Fanny’s death, or was he exaggerating because he liked the attention? Since we only get hearsay about Benwick after the Lyme episode, it’s hard to say for sure.

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