- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- Literary context
- Volume 1
- Volume 2
Volume 2, Chapter 5 / 17
Synopsis of Volume 2, Chapter 5 / 17
Anne learns that her old school friend Mrs. Smith is in Bath. Anne visits Mrs. Smith who has married, been widowed, become chronically ill, and has lost her fortune and status. Though much has changed in the intervening twelve years, they still find a great deal of pleasure in one another's company. Anne is impressed with Mrs. Smith's ability to rise above her dreary and depressing circumstances and to be positive.
Mrs. Smith tells Anne that her health had been much worse when she first came to Bath but she appreciates the encouragement and stories of her carer, Nurse Rooke.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth are horrified that Anne's visits have exposed her to sickness and an association with a person of low rank. However, Lady Russell tells her that it has impressed Mr. Elliot, whom she is pleased to think is pursuing Anne. Momentarily tempted by the thought of filling her mother's shoes at Kellynch, Anne quickly remembers that she fundamentally mistrusts him, and dislikes his lack of openness.
Commentary on Volume 2, Chapter 5 / 17
governess The only job considered appropriate for a single woman of rank in need of an income. Genteel girls were frequently taught at home by a governess.
the two strong claims … past kindness and present suffering Anne does as she would be done by: she appreciates being the object of kindness and is herself kind to those in need.
school Girls of Anne's social standing were commonly sent to boarding school.
She was a widow, and poor … left his affairs dreadfully involved The implication is that Mrs. Smith's husband's extravagance and mismanagement left her with a complicated financial mess to deal with and put her on the path to poverty.
rheumatic fever A serious disease caused by an unchecked bacterial infection. It can be fatal or can cause long-term heart damage.
Unable even to afford herself the comfort of a servant … almost excluded from society Mrs. Smith's inability to afford even one servant indicates a level of poverty that would cause her to lose status.
It would excite no proper interest there … Lady Russell … entered thoroughly into her sentiments Anne doesn't even bother to tell her father and sister about Mrs. Smith as she knows they wouldn't begin to comprehend her reasons for visiting her, but Lady Russell understands it straightaway, which is a point in her favour.
Westgate-buildings Less well-regarded street in the lower end of Bath, but convenient for accessing the baths.
manners as consciously right as they were invariably gentle Anne has cultivated good manners, but she has the inner qualities to match. This integrity was the mark of true rank in her characters, for Jane Austen.
that power of turning readily from evil to good ... was from Nature … the choicest gift of Heaven … by a merciful appointment Anne believes that Mrs. Smith's ability to rise above her circumstances is a gift from God, and evidence of his mercy that allows her to bear the otherwise unbearable with grace.
nurse Not a trained nurse, but more of a home help who would assist with various tasks including health care.
au fait Familiar with.
cavil at Find fault with.
a handsome equipage The carriage would have the coat of arms on display and thus look handsome in Sir Walter's opinion.
Anne kept her appointment; the others kept theirs A sign of Anne's growing independence and separation from her family.
restraints of widowhood It was proper for a person to mourn the death of a spouse for a year.
for a few moments her imagination and her heart were bewitched Despite Lady Russell's protestations that she's ‘no match-maker', such are her powers of persuasion that she chooses to point out just the advantages of a union with Mr. Elliot that she knows Anne will be vulnerable to.
any one article of moral duty A reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles. Adherence to them was a common measure of good morality.
truly cleansed A reference to the Christian belief that the blood of Christ was shed for sinners as an atonement for sin. This phrase concludes Anne's weighing up the evidence that Mr. Elliot was truly a changed man on the inside as well as the outside.
doing a little good to one or two very poor families in this neighbourhood As a woman of status she would have been charitable to the poor. Her little sewing projects enable her to continue this even on her greatly reduced income.
- How does Austen shape the reader's assessment of Lady Russell through this chapter?
- Consider the narrator's juxtaposition of Lady Russell's uninhibited admiration for Mr. Elliot with Anne's intuitive caution about him
- Consider Lady Russell's approval of Anne's visits to Mrs. Smith.
- Make notes on how Jane Austen compares and contrasts the two widows (Mrs Smith and the Dowager) in this chapter
- What is Jane Austen saying about class and character through her portrayal of these two women?
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