With the Crofts in Bath, Anne looks forward to seeing them frequently. One morning, she has the good fortune to meet the Admiral while walking. He seems happy to see her and he relates to her his knowledge of the engagement between Captain Benwick and Lou isa. He tells her that he and Mrs. Croft are surprised because they expected Louisa to marry their brother, Captain Frederick Wentworth. He tells her that Frederick does not seem to be upset over the news of the engagement. He suggests that Captain Wentwo rth come to Bath, as there are many young, available women here for him to court.
Austen's novels are famous for their use of irony. Irony is hiding what is actually the case, not in order to deceive, but to achieve special rhetorical or artistic effects. Austen uses irony to hint at deeper observations of social life and customs. It is ironic that Captain Benwick proposes to Louisa because they are such an unlikely match. Yet their engagement suggests Austen's observation of different kinds of marriages in society. Austen shows that not every couple is like Anne and Captain Wentworth , entirely suited in temperament. Instead, some people marry because they happen to find something close to what they are looking for at a certain point in their life. Both Captain Benwick and Louisa are in somewhat needy and desperate situations. Benwick is recovering from the death of his fiancee, and Louisa is recovering from her fall. Although Austen finds their match amusing, she does not condemn a match made under such conditions. Rather, her irony serves to highlight her skepticism of true love. Th e kind of connection which Anne and Wentworth have is rare indeed, and the practical side of this novel emphasizes the good fortune of finding someone from a corresponding social class who will make you tolerably happy. Love is not merely a matter of shar ed passion, but of shared learning.
Mrs. Smith's sad situation once again highlights the danger women must face in a society where they have increased social mobility. Mrs. Smith has fallen drastically in her rank and consequence since her marriage and the subsequent death of her husband. H er situation illustrates the potential cruelty of such a strongly class-based society. Not only is Mrs. Smith poor and crippled, she is relatively friendless. Few will visit her in her meager lodgings. Anne's visit is a testament to her own personal chara cter, independence of mind, and willingness to look past social rank.