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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
The Dashwood girls visit the Middletons at the Park. Mrs. Palmer comes forward to welcome them and regretfully informs them about their early departure. She invites Elinor and Marianne to Cleveland. She dominates the conversation by imparting information about Willoughby and Colonel Brandon. She also talks about her husband and his profession.
The chapter is devoted to the Palmers. Mrs. and Mr. Palmer make interesting cases for a character study. Mrs. Palmer enjoys indulging in gossip and gives exaggerated accounts about people. She tries her best to please her friends. Mr. Palmer is frank, factual and down-to-earth. He often cautions his wife when she makes inconsiderate remarks or rash statements. Mrs. Palmer is frivolous and lacks insight. Since her husband is intelligent and shrewd, he is intolerant of her views. Mr. Palmer appears rude, but Elinor considers him rather agreeable.
One more pair of guests arrives after the departure of the Palmers. On their trip to Exeter, John Middleton and Mrs. Jennings meet the Steele sisters and invite them to Barton Park. The Misses Steele (Anne and Lucy) eventually arrive at the Park. Sir John invites the Dashwoods to the Park to get acquainted with the Steele sisters. The Misses Dashwood meet the Steele sisters and are unimpressed. The girls are pleasant looking and smart, but they lack refinement. However, they please Lady Middleton because they pay attention to her children. During the course of their conversation with the Dashwoods, the Steele sisters mention their acquaintance with Edward Ferrars. This piece of information stirs Elinor's curiosity.
This chapter illustrates Jane Austen's subtle use of satire. Sir John Middleton is an amusing character, as shown by his talk and behavior. As soon as he meets the Steele sisters at Exeter, he invites them to Barton Park to spend a few days. However, Lady Middleton shows apprehension at having the Steele girls as their guests. But she is unable to stop the girls from coming to Barton, as they have already accepted the invitation of Sir John. Hence she contents herself "with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject five or six times everyday." This sentence illustrates Austen's ability to use understatement to her advantage.
Another humorous instance occurs when John Middleton persuades the Dashwood sisters to accompany him to the Park in order to meet the Steeles. It is reported in this manner: "Sir John wanted the whole family to walk to the Park directly and look at the guests. Benevolent, philanthropic man! It was painful to him even to keep a third cousin to himself." The passage adequately demonstrates Austen's ironic humor.
The manner in which Sir John persuades the Dashwood sisters to come to the Park is hilarious. His logic is amusing, "'Do come, now,' said he--'pray come--you must come--I declare you shall come.--You can't think how you will like them. Lucy is monstrous pretty, and so good-humored and agreeable!---They have brought the whole coach full of playthings for the children. How can you be so cross as not to come! Why, they are your cousins, you know, after a fashion. You are my cousins, and they are my wife's, so you must be related." Through repetition and exaggerated remarks, he finally persuades the sisters to visit the Park to meet his guests.
The Steele sisters are a perfect foil to Elinor and Marianne. They are crude, vulgar and frivolous. Elinor and Marianne find it tedious to converse with them. They have no wish to renew their acquaintance with them.
One day while walking from the Park to the cottage, Lucy confides in Elinor about her secret engagement with Edward Ferrars. Edward had stayed with her uncle four years ago, and it was at that time that the two had become intimate. To prove her point, Lucy displays Edward's picture in her locket and a letter he wrote to her. She also informs Elinor that Edward had spent some time with them before proceeding to Barton. Lucy's revelations naturally come as an absolute shock to Elinor.
Chapter 22 reveals something important about Edward Ferrars' past. Before Edward had met Elinor, he had been friendly with Lucy Steele and had become engaged to her. It is Lucy's hair that he wears in his ring. Elinor is distressed on hearing Lucy's secret. She is fond of Edward and had believed that he returned her affection. However, she did see a look of concern in his eyes during his recent trip to Barton. At that time he was moody and out of spirits. Lucy's revelation reveals the cause behind Edward's melancholy.
It is ironic that Lucy should choose to tell her secret to Elinor, the girl who loves Edward. It makes the reader wonder if Lucy has knowledge of Edward's affection for Elinor. Lucy not only reveals her relationship with Edward to her confidante, but she also asks her for her advice to tackle this precarious situation. Elinor is stunned to hear the news. She fails to comprehend how Edward could have loved a girl who is so lacking in taste and refinement.