Study Guide

Persuasion Chapter 20

By Jane Austen

Chapter 20

  • Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mrs. Clay, and Anne are at the concert, sitting around waiting for the fashionably-late Dalrymples when Captain Wentworth walks in.
  • Anne starts talking to him, despite feeling the eyes of her father and sister sending daggers at her back. Eventually they relent slightly, however, just enough to give the Captain the slightest bow and curtsey.
  • After the usual small talk of the weather and the town, the conversation turns to Lyme, and Anne and Wentworth discuss the strange turn of affairs that brought Louisa and Benwick together.
  • Wentworth says that at least the couple doesn’t have to deal with obnoxious parents, before Anne’s blushes clue him in that he’s not being the world’s most tactful person.
  • Wentworth goes on to say that Louisa’s nice and all, but she doesn’t seem bookish enough for Benwick, and he’s surprised that his friend fall for her, especially after seeming so hard hit when his previous fiancée Fanny Harville died.
  • Moving from the personal to the abstract, he says that "A man does not recover from such
  • a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not" (20.10). He then falls silent, perhaps thinking of the experience of someone other than Captain Benwick.
  • Anne picks up the conversation, turning it back to Lyme more generally, and says that she would like to visit the town again.
  • Wentworth blames himself for Louisa’s reckless leap, and is surprised that Anne would want to revisit the site of previous trauma.
  • Anne says that the bad part was only at the end, and that memory can transform even bad experiences into good.
  • The Dalrymples and Mr. Elliot arrive and sweep Anne away from Wentworth; when she looks for him again, he has disappeared into the crowd. Anne thinks it’s just as well, as she needs time to think over their conversation.
  • Once Lady Russell arrives, the group heads to their seats, trying to attract as much attention as possible to themselves.
  • Anne barely notices what’s going on around her, as she is much more concerned with the happy thoughts inside her head: she goes over Wentworth’s words and actions, and realizes that he still loves her.
  • Even with such internal distractions, she manages to enjoy the concert, and to translate the Italian of the performance into English for Mr. Elliot, who flatters her intelligence and modesty.
  • Mr. Elliot drops a hint that he has heard much of Anne even before they met in Bath, and Anne is curious as to who could have been telling him stories about her.
  • He says that he has long been enchanted by the name Anne Elliot, and hints at a hope that the name will never change.
  • Anne is distracted from this conversation when Lady Dalrymple and Sir Walter spot Captain Wentworth and discuss his hotness.
  • Anne tries to catch Wentworth’s eye, but senses that he is purposefully avoiding her gaze, and she doesn’t manage to exchange a look with him before the show starts again and she has to turn her attention back to the stage.
  • She still keeps an eye out for him, though, and wishes that Mr. Elliot would leave her alone.
  • At intermission she hopes he’ll come find her, now that half her group has gone off for snacks, but he doesn’t turn up.
  • Intermission ends and they sit down again. Anne has sneakily managed to get a seat closer to the aisle, all the better for potential Wentworth-gazing. Her position is improved even more when the people at the end of the row depart early, leaving an invitingly empty spot next to Anne.
  • She finally spots Captain Wentworth, but his manner is colder than before.
  • They talk of the concert and Anne manages to warm him up a bit again but, just as Wentworth seems about to sit down, Mr. Elliot butts in to ask Anne to translate more Italian.
  • When Anne finally gets free, Wentworth speaks to her only to say goodbye.
  • Anne tries to convince him to stay (for the music, of course), but he goes off rather huffily.
  • Anne realizes what is going on – he’s jealous of Mr. Elliot! While Anne is happy at this further proof that he cares about her, she’s also worried about how to let him know that she still wants him and doesn’t care a bit about Mr. Elliot.