Study Guide

Persuasion Chapter 8

By Jane Austen

Chapter 8

  • Anne and Captain Wentworth cross paths frequently in the small world of Uppercross.
  • They don’t talk much to each other directly, but Anne keeps her eye on Wentworth, and is quite the expert at reading between the lines of what he says and does.
  • One evening, when they’re all together, Anne listens as the Musgrove girls ask Captain Wentworth about his ships so they can look them up on their recently-acquired navy list (a yearly who’s-who of naval ships and their officers).
  • His first ship was the Asp, which was a death trap that had the good fortune not to sink until they had returned to port with their spoils. (We’d like to interrupt this program to bring you a Historical Context Lesson: during this period, members of the British Navy received prizes for capturing ships, so if you were as lucky as Captain Wentworth, you could get very rich very quickly. If you think this sounds a bit like piracy, you’re not far off – the privateers Wentworth mentions taking aboard were basically legal pirates. This concludes the Historical Context Lesson.)
  • Captain Wentworth says that knew the Asp was a beater ship before he ever boarded it, but he really wanted a job "in the year six" (8.2) which just happens to be (if you’re keeping score at home) the year that Anne turned him down.
  • Conversation turns to Captain Wentworth’s next, sturdier, and even more money-making ship, the Laconia, which he shared for a time with his friend Harville.
  • This happens to be the same ship on which poor dead Richard served, causing Mrs. Musgrove to get all weepy again.
  • Once he figures out who she’s talking about, he comforts her, but not before Anne (and only Anne) notices that, for a moment, his expression suggests that he cared as little for Richard as anyone else did while he was alive.
  • The Admiral mentions for no particular reason that, if Captain Wentworth had followed a slightly different schedule earlier in the year, he might have had three women bumming a ride on his ship.
  • Wentworth says it’s just as well, because a ship is no place for a woman.
  • His sister, Mrs. Croft, calls him out, saying that she’s spent most of her life on ships and did just fine, thank you very much.
  • Wentworth continues to protest, and the Admiral Croft plays his trump card, saying that when the Captain has a wife he’ll think differently, and the argument grounds to a stalemate.
  • Mrs. Croft talks about her travels around the world, and says that the only time she felt troubled was when she was left behind on shore while her husband was out at sea.
  • Enough, with the conversation, it’s dancing time!
  • Anne plays the piano as usual, glad that it gives her cover if she occasionally gets a bit teary-eyed watching her former beau enjoying every woman in the room making eyes at him.
  • Once Anne leaves the piano and returns to find Captain Wentworth in her seat; he yields the place to her with cold politeness, which she thinks is worse than if he were openly snarky with her.