As it turns out, Admiral Croft’s wife is the sister of one Mr. Wentworth, who formerly lived near the Elliots at Monkford. The name of Captain Frederick Wentworth has particular importance to Anne — one that makes her cheeks flushed and that inspires in her a “gentle sigh” (18). Just over seven years ago, Captain Wentworth and Anne fell deeply in love with each other. The captain was “a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliancy.” On her side, Anne was “an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling” (18).
After only a few months of happiness, however, their relationship came to an abrupt end — for Captain Wentworth had neither family nor fortune to his name. Sir Walter, deeming the relationship a “degrading alliance,” expressed his disapproval silently but severely, while Lady Russell spoke strongly against a “unfortunate” and “youth-killing alliance” (18-19). And Anne, being still young, was persuaded that the relationship must be broken off. Captain Wentworth was overwhelmed by the “feeling [of] himself ill - used by so forced a relinquishment” and left the country (19). True to his own convictions, Captain Wentworth subsequently found a prosperous path in the navy. To this day, Anne has met no man comparable to him. She is persuaded that keeping the engagement would have made her a happier woman — even if the captain had not made exceptional fortunes.
As the Crofts prepare to move into Kellynch Hall, it is decided that Anne will not go to Bath and will instead stay with her sister Mary at Uppercross. This arrangement suits all parties: Sir Walter and Elizabeth will not miss her, Lady Russell will have her closer by, and Mary will welcome the company to keep her indisposed spirits high. To the disapproval of Lady Russell and Anne, however, it is also decided that Mrs. Clay will join the Elliots at Bath. Mrs. Clay, a daughter of Mr. Shepherd who has returned with two children after an unsuccessful marriage, exceeds at the art of pleasing at Kellynch Hall. Although no one describes her as beautiful — she has a projecting tooth and freckles — both Lady Russell and Anne fear that she will ingratiate herself with the Elliots to the extent that an intimacy develops with Sir Walter. After all “there is hardly any personal defect,” says Anne to Elizabeth, “which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one too” (24).
Dismissing Anne’s suspicions with a touch of resentment, Elizabeth departs to Bath with Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. Anne, in turn, travels to the Cottage at Uppercross, about a quarter of a mile from the Great House where Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove live. She finds Mary in rather sullen spirits upon arrival but manages to cheer her up through conversation. Mary consequently proposes a walk and the two decide to visit the Great House. After spending a half hour in pleasant conversation at the Great House, Mary and Anne once again set off on a walk, this time joined by the Miss Musgroves, Henrietta and Louisa.
The transition from Kellynch Hall to Uppercross reminds Anne that Elliot affairs — in all the Elliots’ self-importance — are of little concern to those outside her immediate circle. At the Great House, the Musgroves inquire about the Elliots’ move to Bath as they would about any other common event. The Musgroves, meanwhile, have their own set of preoccupations. The men are engaged with their horses and hunting, while the women enjoy fashion, dancing, and music. As Anne acknowledges, “every little social commonwealth. . . dictate[s] its own discourse” (29). For Anne, the change of “social commonwealth” is far from unpleasant. Although she is removed from her only “truly sympathizing friend,” Lady Russell, both the younger and older generation of Musgroves are entirely agreeable and treat her with respect (29). Indeed, Anne resolves to integrate herself into her new environment as much as possible.
In general, the days at Uppercross are passed pleasantly: there is much merriment, with music, parties, and dancing. Whereas Kellynch Hall neglects Anne entirely, however, the “least agreeable circumstance” at Uppercross is that all parties treat her with “too much confidence” (30). All too often, Anne finds herself at the center of disagreements between Mary and Charles, or between Mary and Mrs. Musgrove. Each party brings to her different grievances; to each party she must “give. . . all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours” (31).
At Michaelmas, the Crofts move into Kellynch Hall. When the Crofts pay a visit to Uppercross, Anne engages in pleasant conversation with Mrs. Croft — but is surprised by the sudden mention of Mrs. Croft’s brother. As it turns out, the reference is not to Frederick but to his brother Edward. Later, however, Admiral Croft once again mentions “a brother of Mrs. Croft’s,” noting that his visit is expected soon. Anne thus remains uncertain as to which Wentworth brother is in question. Finally, Louisa arrives and mentions that Captain Frederick Wentworth has returned to England and will be coming to visit.
Incidentally, the news has aroused melancholic feelings in the older Musgroves. According to the narrator, “the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reach his twentieth year” (34). The son, Richard, had been sent to sea and had at one point served under Captain Wentworth. Under the captain’s influence, Richard wrote the only two letters he ever wrote his parents while away. Wotj news of Captain Wentworth having triggered memories, Mrs. Musgrove has just reread the two letters. And with “all the strength of his faults forgotten,” the rereading has “thrown her into greater grief for him than she had known on first hearing of his death” (35). As a result, the Musgroves resolve to introduce themselves to Captain Wentworth when he arrives. Little do they realize the emotional turmoil that such talk of Captain Wentworth arouses in Anne.
The fourth chapter introduces the foremost instance of persuasion in the novel. Seven years ago, Anne was persuaded by those around her—particularly Lady Russell—to break off her engagement to Captain Wentworth. It has taken Anne many years to cope with the traumatic experience (note that the word “trauma” comes from the Greek for “wound”). And it is clear that the wound has not yet healed fully, for the narrator states that Anne “ha[s] been too dependent on time alone” (20). The mere mention of the name Wentworth brings back fresh memories. This psychic movement into the past is represented aptly in the form of a literary flashback.
As the narrator intimates that Captain Wentworth will reappear presently in the novel, it becomes clear that Anne must overcome the stumbling block of seven years past. Where she will find the strength to do so, however, remains unclear. The critic Tony Tanner writes:
The story of her life consists precisely in having had her own way blocked, refused, negated. . . Yet ‘persuasion’ implies some sort of ‘authority’—preferably moral authority. . . But what is striking about the world of Persuasion is the absence of any real centre or principle of authority. (Tanner 233)
It is already fairly evident that Sir Walter and Elizabeth offer no guidance to Anne. As for Lady Russell, the narrator writes that she viewed Captain Wentworth with “pardonable pride.” The negative connotation of “pardonable” suggests strongly that her authority may be misguided.
The closest thing to a center of authority, perhaps, is Anne’s own persuasion about her engagement to Captain Wentworth: “She was persuaded that under every disadvantage of disapprobation at home. . . she should yet have been a happier woman in maintaining the engagement, than she had been in the sacrifice of it” (20). In retrospect, her persuasion would have proven itself rapidly as a favorable one. For Captain Wentworth had plenty of fortune without having fortune: although he had no money at the time, the wheel of fortune was to spin upward for him very soon. Despite such an ironic twist of fate, morality and life's decisions cannot be judged fairly in retrospect. In this regard, Anne’s persuasion may be better understood in the sense of the word’s root, meaning “sweet” or “pleasant” (Bloom 1). More precisely, her persuasion carries the emotional charge of “bittersweet.” Or as the Greek poet of love Sappho wrote the word, “sweetbitter”—a sweetness of having the correct persuasion that is simulataneously bitter (Carson 3). "Persuasion" is evidently a complex motif.
Just as Sir Walter must evaluate himself as the baronet of Kellynch who is displaced from Kellynch, so too will Anne need to reevaluate her “role” with regards to Captain Wentworth. Is she now a friend, a past lover, an acquaintance, or even a stranger to him? In the meantime, the displacement from Kellynch to Uppercross also assigns her a new role as general confidante. The two houses are separate microcosms, each a world in its own. At Kellynch, no one except Lady Russell listens to Anne or asks her opinion; at Uppercross, every one wants to speak to Anne. Within the narrative, she is at the center of discussions and arguments, between Mary and Charles, between Mary and Mrs. Musgrove. And for the reader of the narrative, the critic Stuart M. Tave notes that “it is through her ears, eyes, and mind that we know most of what we know and that we are made to care for what is happening” (Tave 11).
Thus at the center of the Uppercross microcosm, Anne becomes an authority on the characters and events that surround her. It is she who negotiates arguments with moderation; it is she who understands everyone’s individual needs and listens patiently to their talk. And yet, her authority does not give her word any more weight than at Kellynch. Tave points out that “in the music-making at Uppercross Anne herself plays a great deal better than either of the Miss Musgroves, but ‘having no voice,’ nor anything else that would make an noise. . . her performance is little thought of, as she is well aware” (Tave 12). From a certain perspective, her humility and avoidance of making unnecessary noises marks her superiority of character. On the other hand, the narrative undoubtedly engages a forlorn tone to speak of Anne’s lack of voice:
. . . excepting one short period of her life, she had never, since the age of fourteen, never since the loss of her dear mother, known the happiness of being listened to, or encouraged by any just appreciation or real taste. (32)
The “one short period of her life,” of course, took place under the grace of Captain Wentworth. The possibility of being reunited with the captain, then, also presents the possibility of regaining her voice.
Finally, it should be noted that Anne’s voice is not the narrator’s, despite their proximity to one another. The last scene in the chapter six demonstrates this point. When the name of Wentworth triggers memories of Richard in Mrs. Musgrove, the narrator states that “the real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him at sea. . .” (35). The adjectives “pathetic,” “troublesome,” “hopeless” and the judgment of good and bad fortune may be accurate. But it is difficult to imagine the subtle Anne making such a blunt statement—even if she does not disagree with the underlying point.