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Persuasion summary

Jane Austen

A Captivating Novel on Second Chances in the Early 19th Century.

4.5 (64 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

'Persuasion' by Jane Austen is a classic tale of love, regret, and second chances. It follows the story of Anne Elliot, who must navigate the social norms and expectations of her time in order to pursue a second chance at love with Captain Wentworth.

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    Persuasion
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    Fate twists its knife.

    Despite the wealth and respectability that comes with being the daughter of a baron, Anne Elliot’s life had not been without hardship. Three significant blows had led Anne to a life of loneliness and pain.

    The first blow came at age 14, when Anne’s much-cherished mother died and – in the grips of her grief – Anne was shipped off to Bath to finish her education. Her vain and conceited father, Sir Walter, and her equally self-important older sister, Elizabeth, wouldn’t have offered her any comfort during this difficult time. But Anne’s relocation to Bath divided her from her godmother, Lady Russell, who always had Anne’s best interests at heart.

    On completing her education, Anne returned to live with her indifferent family on their estate, Kellynch Hall: a grand affair surrounded by parklands for riding and hunting, carefully maintained shrubberies, and stylish gardens. The Hall itself was no less impressive than its grounds. Its endless rooms were filled with rich furnishings and decorated with the latest fashions. It – and the baronetcy – were a source of great pride for Sir Walter, and he saw fit to spend his wealth on every luxury imaginable, so that his home and lifestyle reflected his rank.

    While this wealth greatly benefitted Anne’s practical needs, it proved a hindrance in matters of the heart. At age 19, Anne met a young man – Captain Frederick Wentworth – who was staying in the neighborhood with his brother. Anne was captivated by his intelligence, spirit, and depth of feeling. And Captain Wentworth was no less taken with her. Anne’s bright, inquiring mind was complemented with gentleness, modesty, and elegance. And though her father saw no particular beauty in her delicate features – so unlike his own – this view wasn’t shared by the Captain.

    It didn’t take long for the young people to fall in love; Anne had never known such happiness. But this felicity was short-lived. Captain Wentworth asked Sir Walter for Anne’s hand in marriage. But Sir Walter did not approve. While Captain Wentworth had a certain air about him that Sir Walter couldn’t deny, he had no wealth or connections.

    Sir Walter didn’t outright refuse the Captain’s request. But he told Anne in no uncertain terms that if she were to accept, he would shun her henceforth. It was unthinkable that he would associate with such a lowly person as the Captain and deign to be seen in public with him, even if he were his son-in-law.

    Lady Russell was also against the match. Though she could overlook the Captain’s rank to a greater degree, her concern was for Anne’s ongoing comfort and well-being. Captain Wentworth may have had grand aspirations of accruing wealth, as many in the navy did. But at such an early stage in his career, there was no guarantee that these aspirations would transpire.

    Stepping into the role of Anne’s absent mother, Lady Russell pressed Anne not to throw herself away on the first suitor that captured her heart. And Anne – young, gentle, and in the habit of deferring to Lady Russell – allowed herself to be persuaded. Captain Wentworth’s offer was duly refused, and he left the neighborhood heartbroken.

    Anne suffered keenly too; she lost her “bloom,” according to her family, and never quite recovered her spirits. While she didn’t blame herself for heeding Lady Russell’s advice, she greatly regretted her decision. In the years that passed, Captain Wentworth forged a distinguished career and became a wealthy man, increasing Anne’s remorse. She was yet to find his equal in her limited social circle. And even if this circle were broader, it was unlikely that anyone else could so completely beguile her. This was her second great blow.

    The third came eight years later, when Sir Walter’s extravagant lifestyle finally caught up with him. Having accumulated formidable debt – even for someone so wealthy – he had no choice but to rent Kellynch Hall to a tenant and downsize to a respectable home in Bath. There, he could still live in a style befitting a baron, without paying for the upkeep of his estate.

    Anne was devastated about her removal to Bath. But this wasn’t the worst of it. Kellynch Hall was rented to one Admiral Croft and his wife Sophy – Captain Wentworth’s sister. This cruel twist of fate opened Anne’s old wounds, as she imagined the Captain’s presence at Kellynch, visiting his sister. Someone still so dear to her – but now a stranger – was walking the rooms of her home.

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    What is Persuasion about?

    Persuasion (1817) is the story of Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old woman whose heart was broken at 19, when she was persuaded not to marry the naval captain Frederick Wentworth – the love of her life. When Anne and Captain Wentworth cross paths again, they are both still unattached. But does the Captain still carry a torch for Anne, or has resentment and time snuffed out the flame forever?

    Persuasion Review

    Persuasion (1818) is a captivating novel that explores the themes of love, societal expectations, and second chances. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With its complex and relatable characters, the book delves into the nuances of human emotions and relationships, keeping readers engrossed from start to finish.
    • The exploration of regret and the passage of time adds depth to the story, making it both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.
    • Through its sharp social commentary and insightful observations about class and hierarchy, the book sheds light on the restrictions imposed by society, making it a timeless tale.

    Who should read Persuasion?

    • Romantics
    • Period drama fans
    • Austen readers looking for a quick plot refresher

    About the Author

    Jane Austen wrote six novels set in England toward the end of the eighteenth century – the time in which she lived. Her narratives explore the theme of women’s dependence on marriage to gain economic and social security, and provide a commentary on Britain’s gentry through satire and irony. 

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    Persuasion FAQs 

    What is the main message of Persuasion?

    The main message of Persuasion is that second chances and true love are worth fighting for.

    How long does it take to read Persuasion?

    The estimated reading time for Persuasion is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Persuasion a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Persuasion is a captivating read that explores themes of love, loyalty, and societal expectations. It is definitely worth reading!

    Who is the author of Persuasion?

    The author of Persuasion is Jane Austen.

    What to read after Persuasion?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Persuasion, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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